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Nutritional needs change with aging. According to the professionals, six key nutrients – calcium, Vitamins D and B12, sodium, fiber, and water – are important to successful aging for any older adult. And while it might not be something that’s on the menu, socialization is a valued part of the nutritional equation as well.Food, in general, brings people together, and keeps them together for longer periods of time. For seniors, this time is priceless. Spending time at the dinner table, or in the living room, and chatting with others is one of the most treasured and enjoyable things to do. Frankly, mealtime is more enjoyable with friends and family.For the senior living alone, nutrition can be impacted by increased chal- lenges with shopping and preparinga meal. Physical conditions, such as arthritis, problems chewing, medications that interfere with sense of taste, visual changes, strength, or even balance, can make it difficult. Furthermore, the loss of a companion can lead to depression and loneliness and eating alone can cause a senior to loose interest in meal prep and eating. If not addressed, eating a healthy diet will be in question, and additional health risks may develop into more seri- ous chronic conditions.The impact of senior loneliness is not to be underestimated. Research by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home In- stead Senior Care® network, shows lack of companionship is the biggest mealtime challenge for seniors. Dining alone can magnify loneliness and feelings of depres- sion, which in turn can suppress appetite and lead to poor eating.One solution is to share in mealtime when possible. Anyone can drop off a meal, but engaging seniors while they eat, even sitting down with a cup of tea, could make such a difference in his or her social life. Spending mealtime with your loved one as often as possible or even telephoning around the lunch or dinner hour might make an important impact on his or her health.What’s a caregiver to do? Realize that it takes effort to stay connected. You may have noticed that your loved one’s social engagements have decreased or that they have gone days or weeks without speaking to or interacting with others. It never hurts to take stock of their network of activities and friends and to evaluate what you can do to help them stay ahead of the connection curve. Furthermore, help your loved one to realize that you cannot do it alone.Caregivers, the following risk factors may provide you with clues regarding what to look for should you have a family member or neighbor who is isolated or lonely. The following put your loved one at a greater risk:• Living alone• Mobility or sensory impairment• Major life transitions or losses• Low income or limited financial resources• Being a caregiver for someone else with a serious condition• Psychological or cognitive challenges • Inadequate social support• Rural, unsafe, and/or inaccessibleneighborhood• Transportation access challenges • Language barriersThe highest ranked riskfactors for isolation and loneliness include living alone, mobility or sensory impairment, and major life transitions or losses. About 29 percent of people age 65-plus live alone and twice as many women live alone as men. Over 45 percent of older women age 75-plus live alone.Here are some actions that seniors,or their loved ones, may want to consider taking to help stay ahead of the connec- tion curve:• Nurture and strengthen existing rela-tionships; invite people over for coffee or call them to suggest a trip to a museum, the zoo, or to see a movie.• Schedule a time each day to call a friend or visit someone. Or sign up for the Telephone Reassurance program in your area.• Meet your neighbors – young and old.It is estimated that one in five adults over age 50 are affected by isolation, a problem that has been associated with higher rates of chronic disease, depression, dementia, and death.10 SCENE 4405 I CELEBRATING SENIORSCOMPANIONS

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