Q. I’ve noticed my appetite decreasing as I get older. At 80, I’m just not able to eat as much as I did 20 years ago. Is this healthy? It’s also not as much fun to eat alone.
A. It’s always best to keep your doctor apprised of any changes in your health habits. Your GP can let you know whether your appetite is normal or the sign of a health issue. Here’s a study, though, that might interest you. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, consuming fewer calories leads to a longer, healthier life.
After studying monkeys who have lived most of their lives on a restricted diet, scientists found that a nutritious but reduced-calorie diet blunts ageing and significantly delays the onset of such age-related disorders as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy.
During the 20-year course of the study, 50 per cent of the animals permitted to eat freely have survived, while 80 per cent of the monkeys given the same diet, but with 30 per cent fewer calories, are still alive.
“We have been able to show that caloric restriction can slow the ageing process in a primate species,” says Richard Weindruch, a professor of medicine in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who leads the National Institute on Aging-funded study. “We observed that caloric restriction reduced the risk of developing an age-related disease by a factor of three and increased survival.”
Eating alone certainly is not enjoyable. Do you have any friends or neighbours you could invite to join you occasionally? Maybe a few of you could get together and organise a dine around where you go to one person's house each week to share a meal. Or check out any senior centres in your area where you could join others your age for a nutritious meal and companionship. Or consider contacting a care giving and companionship company such as Home Instead Senior Care. The company’s caregivers, who are screened, trained, bonded, and insured, not only can serve as dining companions, but they can help you prepare tasty meals as well. Regardless of what you decide, make sure that you are getting nutritious meals each day.
Take five: Five ways to make new friends:
Join a knitting circle — knitting has been revitalised and a new legion of knitters has sprung up around the country. Check out www.stitch.ie How often do you cook or bake more than you can eat? What not drop a spare cake round to that neighbour of yours?
Cookery classes are one of the new meeting places of choice. Check out www.houseworks.ie Salsa is booming in Ireland, especially with over-fifties. Visit www.steppingout.ie for details of classes in your area.
Why not try volunteering? Visit www.volunteeringireland.ie for details of events or groups in your area.