Help Aging Parents–Who Don’t Eat Properly: A Centenarian’s Advice

Thanksgiving Leftovers Go Home

Thanksgiving Leftovers Go Home


With Thanksgiving/Chanukah just a over a week away, I’m thinking about our dinner, older family members, their eating habits, and what special contributions I can make.

At age 97 and 98 Sr. Advisor, R, previously shared thoughts and advice on my posts about nutritious food older people like, can prepare easily and quickly, and where and how she buys it. (Links below)

Now–at age 100–she shares her philosophy as it relates to life and food, and reiterates the quick, easy, no-mess, healthy food preparation that has helped her age well.

“I always say ‘Take Care of Yourself or You Can’t Take Care of Anything Else.’”  Inference: (…and you’ll end up needing to have someone take care of you). To this end, what you eat is clearly important.

1. SOUP–Most, if not all, older people love soup. It’s comfort food that is usually very nourishing. Dad also loved soup in his later years. R still goes to the grocery store with neighboring women–a Gen x (to Trader Joe’s) one day;–a Boomer (to Safeway) the other day. She always has soup on hand. Why? “It’s delicious, it’s nutritious, and it’s easy preparation and clean-up.” Items: Trader Joe’s soup w/ vegetables, and chicken, vegetables et al.

2. FROZEN DINNERS–nutritious, anchor a meal, easy preparation. Frozen food isn’t new to R, who was widowed at 51. Dinners alone–for one–propelled her to check out the frozen food main course offerings years ago. After some trial and error, she selected 2 brands based on taste and nutrition (she reads ingredients). Although a very good cook in her younger years (I hear), preparing dinner for one lacked appeal. Remaining independent had utmost appeal however. In R’s mind it included eating healthy (before that was popular). At age 100 she feels secure with a week’s supply of frozen dinners in her small freezer. (She doesn’t drive of course).

3. FRESH VEGETABLES/FRUITS–knowing their importance. Bananas, orange juice and Trader Joe’s “Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix” are mainstays. As stated in a previous post, she puts a salad-size portion in a plastic take-out box, adds salad dressing, secures the lid, shakes, and has a salad ready without messing up an extra dish. The veggies can also be steamed for cooked vegetables (but then an extra pot must be used).

4. TREATS–who does’t enjoy them and need them. They add fun to eating! For R, at home, they could be a cookie or two, a piece of candy, a dish of ice cream, or a frozen dessert. She believes in moderation, and buys low-fat if available. Neither cholesterol nor sugar has ever been a problem; but she’s cautious none-the-less. The day we had lunch together she ordered a completely different treat: a main course–fish and chips, salted and fried of course. This elicited the “I don’t abuse myself” quote (meaning in this instance, eating recklessly), first mentioned in an earlier post. She reiterates that she eats “simply” at home, but treats herself when she’s out…and she discusses “salt.”

5. SALT– Using common sense. R has been careful about salt intake for decades–long before it was popular. In her 50′s she realized her ankles were swelling and she decided to cut down on the salt which, it turns out, eliminated the swelling. “No doctor ever told me to cut down,” she says, ”it was just common sense….”

The dinner we prepare next week certainly belongs in the “treat” category. Do we all send leftovers (if we have them) home with our guests from this dinner when we host it? Leftovers are no doubt extra special for aging parents who don’t prepare big meals and those living alone.

This year I’m going to remember something else: put unused vegetables (eg. celery not used for stuffing, extra lettuce from salad making, and parsley–which R. loves–) in zip-lock bags, along with any other unused extras that she wouldn’t buy for herself. And–oh, yes! Add some of the centerpiece flowers, fruits, or vegetables. One more thoughtful way we can help parents age well.

What Food Should A 97-year-old Eat Breakfast and Dinner Ideas
What a 97-year-old woman cooks for herself And how she grocery shops
Aging Parents: Eating Healthy. Can We–Do We–Help? Quick, Easy, No-Mess Meal preparation, Dessert ideas

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.