Vitamin D is vital for us all, but research has found it to be particularly important for the health and wellbeing of older adults.
Without vitamin D, we can’t build and maintain bone strength; it also acts as a hormone to regulate the growth and development of other tissues. In children, severe deficiencies can cause the bone-deforming condition known as rickets, and in adults it can lead to soft and broken bones. We also need the vitamin to: carry messages through the nervous system; fight infection; help our muscles move; and regulate cell growth.
For many people, exposure to sunlight provides most of the vitamin D they need, but people who are not able to go outside regularly, or live in areas where there is not much sun, such as the UK, may be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiencies.
For our residents, lack of mobility and safety concerns that come from living with conditions such as dementia, can sometimes make it difficult to venture outdoors as much as they used to. This is further exacerbated during the winter months, when bad weather and lack of sunlight make going outside less appealing.
Skin becomes thinner in older adults, which reduces the impact of vitamin D exposure; and a lack of appetite in older people can also affect how much vitamin D is absorbed through diet.
Research has shown that older adults who do get the recommended amount of vitamin D:
- Decrease their risks of cardiovascular problems, some cancers and diabetes;
- Lower their chances of early nursing home admission;
- Lower their risks for bone disorders and osteoporosis;
- Maintain their physical independence and mobility; and
- Prevent falls and fractures.
We do our utmost to provide our residents with a diet rich in vitamin D; this includes oily fish, foods fortified with vitamin D, mushrooms and eggs. We also encourage our residents to venture outside either in our safe and secure communal, landscaped gardens, or through our regular day trips or organised walks in local parks.
If you would like to help your loved one maximise their vitamin D intake, why not treat them to some dark chocolate on your next visit, a delicious way to get the nutrients they need! Alternatively, if the sun is shining when you next visit, make the most of it by wrapping up warm and enjoying a cup of tea with your loved one in one of our landscaped gardens.