It’s Not Just Hype: The Benefits of Vitamins for Older Adults

Minerals, vitamins, and supplements – oh my! Seventy percent of older adults are taking them; but are they really necessary as we get older? After all, a balanced and healthy diet offers seniors necessary nutrients. But there are certain instances of deficiency that may call for the addition of a supplement. Be sure to talk with the physician prior to making any changes, but with their approval or recommendation, consider the following:


Older bones are prone to breaks and fractures when calcium intake is inadequate. This is especially true for post-menopausal women, with an astounding 50% of those over age 50 breaking a bone as the result of osteoporosis. However, men are also at risk for dangerous complications from calcium deficiency. A hip fracture in men, for example, is more likely to be fatal than it is for women.

The very best natural sources for calcium are leafy greens, salmon, broccoli, kale, and dairy products, but the majority of women over age 50 and men over age 70 aren’t getting adequate calcium from food alone. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 1,200 mg of calcium daily for women over age 51 and men over age 71 and 1,000 mg each day for men ages 51 – 70.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is calcium’s closest friend. They work most effectively when taken together to boost not only bone health, but the immune and nervous systems and perhaps the heart as well. Sunshine is the greatest source for vitamin D, but aging skin together with the threat of skin cancer may cause roadblocks to getting adequate levels.

Recommendations are 15 mcg/600 IU per day up to age 70 and 20 mcg/800 IU per day for anyone over age 71. If vitamin D supplements are advised by a physician, they should always be taken with food for optimal absorption.

Vitamin B12

Deficiencies of vitamin B12 are common in older adults, and even more so for those who take certain medications (particularly metformin or gastric acid inhibitors). Without a sufficient amount of vitamin B12, older adults are far more susceptible to developing anemia, nerve damage or neuropathy, balance problems, depression, poor memory, confusion, and dementia.

The National Institutes of Health recommends 2.4 mcg each day, which may be acquired through a diet high in clams and fish, poultry, meat, liver, milk, eggs, and fortified cereals. And unlike other vitamins and minerals, even high doses of vitamin B12 have not been found to cause harm, in accordance with the NIH.

Unsure which dietary supplements are right for a senior you love? Let one of Seniorcorp’s caregivers supply accompaniment and transportation to the doctor’s office to find out. Reach out to us at 757-640-0557 to learn more about how we can help boost older adult health with professional companion care in Norfolk and the surrounding area.