As summer time approaches it is especially important to focus on staying well hydrated. It is difficult for older adults to drink enough fluids due to decreased thirst sensation, fear of incontinence and difficulty regulating body temperature when hot. Water is an essential nutrient, just as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are to a person’s overall health.
Drinking adequate amounts of fluid, especially water, is important for everyone; however as we age, our bodies lose more water due to the decrease in lean muscle mass and increase in body fat that naturally occurs. An older adult’s body is about 50 percent water by weight. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends that females over 71 years of age consume 9 cups of fluids or more per day and men over 71 years of age consume 13 cups of fluid or more per day. This may sound like a lot of fluid, but about 20% of your daily fluid needs can be consumed from foods such as fruits and vegetables. These recommendations vary depending on a person’s body weight and medical condition. If you have a specific diagnosis such as renal disease or cardiovascular disease, talk with your health care provider about how much fluid is safe to consume daily.
Since older adults have a decreased thirst sensation, it’s important to keep a glass of fluid close by during the day. It’s recommended to drink water when first waking up in the morning and throughout the day. One way to ensure seniors are consuming fluids throughout the day is by enjoying beverages with friends and family during visits. The more visible water glasses are to you, the more reminders you will have to drink fluids! Water is the best way to consume adequate amounts of fluid. If you do not like the taste of water, try adding fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, cucumbers or lime to a pitcher of water to make it taste better. Lemonade, iced tea, decaffeinated coffee and tea, fruit juices and milk are also great sources of essential nutrients and fluids. If a person is consistently consuming the same amount of caffeine each day, caffeinated coffee and tea doesn’t have a dehydrating effect on the body. Other great summertime sources of fluids are gelatin desserts, ice cream, sherbet, fruit smoothie, and watermelon. Be creative in trying different beverages and you might find a new favorite to share with friends and family!