University of Massachusetts Amherst

It's MORE Than A Meal


Special Nutrition Needs of Older Adults

promoting fluid intake

Fluids are Important at Any Age

Fluids play important roles in the body. They prevent constipation, regulate body temperature, carry nutrients to cells, and regulate the balance of fluids in body cells. They also make it easier for people to chew and swallow foods.

Every day, people lose fluids when they sweat, breathe, urinate, and have bowel movements. Thus, they need to replenish fluids to prevent dehydration and help their bodies function smoothly.

Aging and Fluid Needs

As adults get older, they continue to need about 1½ to 2 liters of fluids each day. However, older adults may find it harder to maintain fluid balance, for several reasons:

  • They may have a reduced sense of thirst, leading them to drink less fluids.
  • They may drink less fluids due to poor bladder control, poor mobility, or illnesses.
  • Their bodies may have lost water due to diarrhea or poor intestinal absorption.
  • They may use diuretics and laxatives that raise the risk for dehydration.
  • They may be using other medications that increase fluid needs.

Preventing Dehydration

Dehydration can be a serious health problem for older adults. To prevent dehydration, many experts recommend consuming at least 8 cups of fluids each day. Fluids are not limited to water!  Fruit juice, milk, soup, fruit, and decaffeinated coffee and tea also count.

Your day health program can help promote fluid intake by offering fluids every 2 or 3 hours, including with meals and snacks. Encourage older adults to drink fluids regularly, since they may fail to recognize their thirst.

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Developed for the Massachusetts Department of Education Child and Adult Care Food Program by the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education Program. Permission is hereby granted by the Massachusetts Department of Education to copy any or all parts of this document for non-commercial educational purposes. The Massachusetts Department of Education, an Affirmative Action employer, is committed to ensuring that all of its programs and facilities are accessible to all members of the public. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.