Combatting bone density decline in seniors

Steve Carlton  |  July 2, 2013

Most people know that calcium is one of the most essential nutrients for growing children, but it can be equally important for older people, too. As people grow older, the integrity of their bones can gradually deteriorate. This can present unique dangers to the elderly, as even small trips and falls can pose serious risks.

Even if your relative is considering moving into a care home or nursing home where medical staff are on duty 24 hours a day, it still pays to take steps to reduce the decline of bone density. Here are some simple ways you can help your loved one stay healthy and maintain strong bones as they age:

Healthy diet
Although it may seem obvious, ensuring your ageing relative eats a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet is one of the best ways to combat bone density decline. When you are looking at potential retirement homes for your loved one, discuss the dietary options available at these care homes to determine whether special dietary requirements are catered for. In addition, consult with care homes' medical staff to see whether calcium supplements are available to residents, as these vitamins can also help strengthen bones in seniors.

Similarly, reducing the amount of caffeine in seniors' diet can also help. Over time, caffeine can have a detrimental effect on bone mass, particularly in older people. If switching to decaffeinated beverages is simply too much to ask of your loved one, consider encouraging them to try half-caff as a compromise.

Gentle exercise
Bone density can be significantly improved through regular exercise. This does not mean your ageing relative has to engage in strenuous or vigourous sports - even gentle, regular exercise can delay the decline of bone density in seniors. Walking and yoga can be suitable exercises and, in addition to helping strengthen the density of bones, these activities can also reduce the likelihood that your loved one will develop other medical conditions such as osteoporosis.

For more active seniors, activities such as  mild weight training can also be highly beneficial when it comes to combatting the effects of bone mass decline. As seniors' bone density decreases, it can place additional strain on their muscles. By exercising with weights regularly, active seniors can strengthen their muscles and protect their joints. However, any substantial change in exercise regime should be discussed with your relative's GP, as well as the medical personnel of their care home, before any adjustments are made.