Slow those changes with proper nutrition

Physiological changes occur slowly over time in all body systems.

These changes are influenced by life events, illnesses, genetic traits and socioeconomic factors. One change is sensory change. Sensory changes include a decline in sight and peripheral vision, hearing, smell and taste.

The losses are neither total nor rapid, but they do affect nutritional intake and health status. Loss of visual acuteness may lead to less activity or a fear of cooking, especially using a stove. Inability to read food prices, nutrition labels or recipes may affect grocery shopping, food preparation and eating. This could have an affect on nutritional status. Loss of hearing may lead to less eating out or not asking questions of the waiter or store clerk. Changes in smell and taste are more obvious. If food doesn’t taste appetizing or smell appealing, we don’t want to eat it. If we must cut back on salt, sugar or fat, we may tend not to eat.

As we age, we lose lean body mass. Reduced muscle mass includes skeletal muscle, smooth muscle and muscle that affects vital organ function, with loss of cardiac muscle perhaps the most important. Cardiac capacity can be reduced and cardiac function impaired by chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension or diabetes. Changes also occur in the kidneys, lungs and liver, and in our ability to generate new protein tissue. In addition, aging can slow the immune system’s response in making antibodies. The most significant result of the loss of lean body mass may be the decrease in basal energy metabolism. Metabolic rate declines proportionately with decline in total protein tissue. To avoid gaining weight, we must reduce calorie intake or increase activity. Calorie needs change due to more body fat and less lean muscle. Less activity can further decrease calorie needs. The challenge for the elderly is to meet the same nutrient needs as when they were younger, yet consume fewer calories.

The answer to this problem is to choose foods high in nutrients in relation to calories. Such foods are considered “nutrient-dense.” An example is low-fat milk is more nutrient dense than regular milk. Its nutrient content is the same, but it has fewer calories because it has less fat. For seniors watching your portion sizes is important. Seniors need 5 1/2 to 6 ounces of meat or meat alternatives per day; a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards is equal to 3 ounces. Eat more dark green and orange vegetables. Have a salad for lunch and a few vegetables at dinner and for snacks. Eat more whole grains. At least half of the servings of grains you eat each day should be whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, barley and 100 percent whole wheat products. Choosing more fish, poultry without skin, beans, nuts and seeds, non-fat and low fat dairy products are good for a healthy heart. You can reduce your risk for high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease by reducing your sodium intake. Being more active and less sedentary helps you control your weight and lower risk for many chronic diseases. So as we age, it becomes more important that we eat more calcium, fiber, iron, protein and vitamins A, C and folacin. To reduce calories select nutrient-dense foods, eat smaller portions and move more and sit less.

Medicare open enrollment

Are you baffled by the many decisions you are faced with regarding your Medicare these days? The decisions you need to make as you approach your 65th birthday can be overwhelming. Keeping up with the information you need regarding Part A (hospitalization), Part B (physicians visits), Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans), Part D (prescription drugs) can be a full time job! Did you know lower income individuals may be entitled to lower premiums and lower cost prescriptions? There’s a lot to consider!

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program through the State of Colorado Division of Insurance, or SHIPS, helps beneficiaries identify and understand programs and plans, including Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplemental insurance policies, Medicare Savings programs, long-term care insurance and financing, and other public and private health insurance coverage options. SHIPs also assist eligible participants in enrolling in these programs and plans, all services are provided free charge at the Silver Foxes Den — a cultural center for older adults.

Medicare Health Plans-Part C. These plans are approved by Medicare and run by private companies. When you join one of these plans, you are still in Medicare. Some of these plans require referrals to see specialists. They provide all of your Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical) coverage. They generally offer extra benefits, and many include prescription drug coverage. These plans often have networks which mean you may have to see a doctor who belongs to the plan or go to certain hospitals to get covered services. In many cases, your costs for services can be lower than in the Original Medicare Plan, but it is important to check with the plan because the costs for services will vary. To learn more about these plans visit and click on Medicare Health Plans-2009 Data or schedule an appointment at The Den.

Open enrollment for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) is through March 31, appointments fill quickly, call 264-2167 for information or an appointment.

Special Events

Gardening with Karin. Spring’s almost here and it makes me think of flowers. Did you know flowers are admired and used by humans, mainly to beautify their environment? Join us on Monday, March 16, at 12:45 p.m., as Karin Kohake shares over ten years experience as a Colorado Master Gardner. Gardening has been a passion of hers for most of her life. So come to The Den and plant a flower of your own. The last day to sign up is Tuesday, March 10.

Ask the Doc. March is National Nutrition month. Dr. Bricca from the Family Medicine Center will be at The Den on Wednesday, March 18, at 12:30 p.m. Dr. Bricca looks forward to answering your questions regarding nutrition.

Rummage sale. Saturday, April 4. Please donate new or gently-used items to benefit Archuleta Seniors, Inc. You may bring your items to the membership desk at the Senior Center on Tuesday or Fridays, no later than 2 p.m., during the month of March. Suggested items: kitchen items, art work, electronics (working), ceramics, tapes, CD’s, musical instruments, exercise equipment, baskets, jewelry and household items. Please, no clothing or shoes. If you have any questions, or for pickups, please call Doris Whitcomb at 731-1346.

Weekly activities

Friday, March 13 — Geezers, 9 a.m.; Tai Chi for Arthritis, 9:30-10:30 a.m.; gym walk, 11:15 a.m.; Healthier Living class, 12:45 p.m.; ASI board meeting, 1 p.m.

Monday, March 16 — Gym walk, 11:15 a.m.; Canasta, 1 p.m.; Gardening with Karin, 12:45 p.m.

Tuesday, March 17 — Gym walk, 11:15 a.m.; Meditation for Healing, 1 p.m.; Sky Ute casino, 1 p.m.

Wednesday, March 18 — Dance for health, 10 a.m.; Dr. Bricca, nutrition, 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 19 — Meal served in Arboles.

Friday, March 20 — Geezers, 9 a.m.; Tai Chi for Arthritis, 9:30-10:30 a.m.; gym walk, 11:15 a.m.; Healthier Living, 12:45-3:15 p.m.

Medical expense assistance

 The Silver Foxes Den, in cooperation with Archuleta Seniors, Inc. (ASI) may be able to help with excess medical expenses.  Items covered might be prescription copays, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care. Qualifying amounts are based on income and need. Recipients must be current members of ASI. Dues are $5 per year. For more information about how we might help you or your family, please contact Musetta at 264-2167.

Meals on Wheels

Archuleta County Senior Services is now offering frozen meals for once a week delivery to reach those who are rurally isolated and unable to participate in our regular route of the Meals on Wheels program. The suggested donation for these meals is $3 each. To find out if you qualify for this program or for more information please call 264-2167.


Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $3, kids 12 and under and guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, and Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $9.75. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at noon.

Friday, March 13 — Barbecue beef brisket, ranch style beans, carri fruit salad, seasonal fruit, bread.

Monday, March 16 — Dijon chicken, brown rice, chopped spinach, orange, roll.

Tuesday, March 17 — Corned beef, parsley potatoes and carrots, shamrock cookie, rye bread.

Wednesday, March 18 — Barbecue pork ribs, corn, cooked greens, potato salad, fruit.

Thursday, March 19 — Meal served in Arboles.

Friday, March 20 — Ham and potato omelet, green beans, oven potatoes, fruit.