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Ageing Well

The University of Reading’s new free online short course, on how small changes to diet and exercise routines can help older adults age well, is now available.

Is staying active and healthy in old age impossible? Is losing your independence inevitable? The answer to both these questions is no – eating well and exercising are two things everyone can do to improve their quality of life as they age. These changes do not require lots of additional expense and huge changes in lifestyle, but they do require being informed about the specific nutritional and physical activity needs of older people.

In ‘Ageing Well: Nutrition and Exercise for Older Adults’ you will discover that significant progress in preserving the health and wellbeing of yourself, or those you care for, can be made just by making small adjustments to routines.

On this two-week course from the University of Reading, we will show you tips for adding extra protein to your meals, exercises that use equipment you can find around the home, and you will learn the recommended guidelines for various nutrients and physical activity.

Watch the trailer for the course:

Register to join the course

Preventing undernutrition and muscle loss

This FutureLearn course is led by Lisa Methven, a Professor of Food and Sensory Science at the University of Reading and Dr Miriam Clegg, a senior lecturer in Human Nutrition at University College Cork. It is one of the outcomes of a Europe-wide, multi-partner project (named FortiPhy) to design, develop and test new recipes and physical activity programmes for the prevention of undernutrition and maintenance of muscle mass in the community-dwelling older adult population.

Dr Clegg explained what you can expect to learn on this course: “Everyone ages at a different rate, however we do have some control over how well we, and the people we care for, age. This means that we have the potential to influence how well we age, in order to maintain our independence and enjoy our later years.

“Older adults are generally less active and because of this, their energy requirements may decrease. However, nutrient requirements actually remain the same as we get older, meaning that it may be necessary to enrich the food of older people to maintain their nutrient and calorie requirements.

“Several studies have shown that undernutrition affects 1 in 10 older people living independently at home. However, it affects 5 in 10 older people living in nursing homes, and 7 in 10 older people in hospital.

“Being overweight, even obese, does not protect against undernutrition. And when older adults lose weight, they lose muscle, meaning that they are more likely to lose their abilities to do daily tasks.”

Dr Clegg explained that muscle loss is a natural part of ageing, called sarcopenia. However, it can be either prevented or slowed through eating enough protein at regular intervals throughout the day.

She said: “Fortification – adding ingredients to existing meals – can provide a flexible approach for older adults as it allows them to continue eating the foods that they most enjoy. This can be achieved by, for example, adding dairy ingredients like milk or high protein yoghurt into mashed potatoes, or adding soy protein into vegetarian or minced-meat meals.

“As well as good nutrition, maintaining physical activity is equally as important. As we age, being physically active helps to prevent disease, maintains independence, decreases risk of falls, improves cognitive function, mental health and sleep, and can combat isolation and loneliness, which has also been linked to decreased appetite in older adults.

“Older adults should do varied physical activity that emphasises balance and strength training, at moderate or greater intensity, on three or more days a week.

“Undernutrition and sarcopenia are not inevitable. If detected and treated in time, the situation can be reversed. Paying attention to the appetite and weight of older people is therefore essential to enable them to age well. If you are worried about yourself or someone you care for then please contact your doctor or ask to have a chat with your community dietician.”

Find out more and register to join the course now.