Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - As printed in South Shore Senior News

Hungering for Healthier Food

Age Stage: Understanding the Changing Lifestyes of Boomers & Seniors

A couple of years back, I went to a nutritionist to help me feel good about turning 50. It really made me more aware of the foods I was eating and how they made my body feel once I ate them—what my mood was like and even how my brain functioned.

Food and brain health have been on my mind a lot recently. Compass on the Bay, the assisted living facility where my 90-year-old father lives, has started working with a brain health specialist from Boston University to identify ways to change its food preparation in order to build in more of the brain-healthy ingredients that may boost memory and cognitive abilities. To help residents and their families better understand this initiative, Compass sponsored a seminar given by Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, adjunct research assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and president of Health Care Insights.

Dr. Emerson Lombardo spoke to us about her Memory Preservation Nutrition® program which is being implemented at the Compass and elsewhere. Basically, this focuses on adding fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, specific spices, healthy fats, and foods containing omega-three fatty acids to the diet, while reducing refined sugars. She was quick to point out that eating this way can benefit people of any age – whether they are experiencing memory loss or not.

That got me thinking about the Boomer population. I probably have more concerns about my brain giving out than my body, especially on those days when I feel like I’m getting as forgetful as my Dad—though thankfully, he's still pretty with it. And I have an idea that most of my 78 million fellow Boomers share that concern. Talk about an incredible opportunity, not just for the health and wellness industry, but for food and restaurant businesses as well. I can imagine a line of brain-power-boosting snack foods—statistics show that Boomers are big consumers of snack foods—using rosemary or ginger as flavorings instead of salt. Or a restaurant menu item featuring a leafy green salad with fresh vegetables, nuts, and hummus positioned as a brain energizer.

Of course, companies do have to be careful about how they talk to Boomers. We’re a generation that’s become skeptical about unrealistic promises and quick-fix plans, and we don’t like to be preached to. Just give us the facts and let us come to our own conclusions.
And if you’re going to offer a healthy food product, you better make sure it tastes great, too.

Most statistics showing the rise in Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer indicate these are exacerbated by poor diet and lack of exercise. Thanks to my nutritionist, I’ve tried new dishes that I probably wouldn't have otherwise, and have come to love and even crave some incredibly healthy foods. This is a life-stage shift that other Boomers I’ve talked to are starting to make as well—and one the food and restaurant industry would be wise to address.

South Shore Senior News

-posted by Laura Willis