SINGAPORE: A newly released longitudinal ageing study conducted in Singapore has unveiled alarming statistics regarding the health of the elderly, particularly those over 65. The study found that an overwhelming four out of five seniors in this age group are grappling with low muscle mass, putting them at a significant risk of malnutrition.
The research further indicates that three out of ten individuals above the age of 55 are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, with a staggering 90% of this demographic classified as frail.
One of the key revelations from the study is the potential for improvement through targeted interventions. Researchers have identified that incorporating regular exercise and enhancing nutrition can substantially reduce the risk of malnutrition by almost a third.
Nutritionists speaking to Channel 8 news identified several contributing factors, noting how elderly individuals living alone cook infrequently and how many opt for the convenience of food centres, instant noodles, or canned goods, neglecting the nutritional needs vital for their well-being.
Poor appetite due to illness, a preference for softer foods due to dental issues, and a lack of awareness about selecting healthy food options may also contribute to a nutritional imbalance among this demographic.
Malnutrition has critical repercussions for the elderly. Physical weakness, compromised immunity, and poor physical function are common consequences, significantly elevating the risk of falls, fractures, and subsequent hospitalization.
In response to these findings, nutritionists are advocating for a proactive approach to identify and mitigate the risk of malnutrition. They recommend three simple steps for individuals to assess their nutritional status.
Firstly, self-examination by checking for sunken temples or protruding clavicle bones can provide initial indicators. Secondly, regular weight monitoring, with a continuous decline signalling a heightened risk of malnutrition. Lastly, a persistent loss of appetite for five days or more is flagged as a potential red flag.
For those experiencing these symptoms, seeking professional help is paramount. Nutritionists advise individuals to consult with healthcare professionals for tailored treatment options.