How Many Calories Per Day for the Elderly?

All foods contain calories that provide the body with energy necessary for human function. Reading, sitting quietly, the pumping action of the heart and normal breathing all require calories. Caloric needs are greatest for young adults. As we age and our activity levels and muscle mass decrease, so does the amount of calories we need to consume.

Elderly Energy Needs

1. After we reach 50, recommended nutrient intake drops by 5 percent for each decade we age due to a decrease in the body’s active cells and loss of muscle tissue.

But determining ideal caloric intake for the elderly is not much different than calculating it for younger adults. It does, however, require some basic arithmetic.

The Harris-Benedict equation is a formula that determines basal metabolic rate then factors in physical activity to derive at the recommended daily caloric intake. The basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories burned at rest.

The formula to determine metabolic rate varies for elderly men and women.

This is the formula for women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) — (4.7 x age in years).
And here’s the formula for men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) — (6.8 x age in years)

Once the basal metabolic rate has been determined, you need to factor in activity levels. To account for activity, you multiply the BMR by a figure representing the appropriate activity level. For the elderly individual who participates in little or no activity, multiply the BMR by 1.2. For the person who is lightly active or participates in sports one to three times per week, multiply the BMR by 1.375. The moderately active elderly individual who exercises or participates in sports three to five days per week should multiply his or her BMR by 1.55. The exerciser who works out hard six to seven days per week should multiply the BMR by 1.725.

An example might be useful. Here are the step-by-step calculations you would use to determine the ideal caloric intake for a 79-year-old female who is 66 inches tall, weighs 130 pounds and who exercises one to three times per week.

First, you would determine basal metabolic rate:

BMR = 655 + (4.35 x 130) + (4.7 x 66) — (4.7 x 79)
BMR = 655 + (565.5) + (310.2) — (371.3)
BMR = 655 + 504.4
BMR = 1,159.4 Calories
Then, you would you would account for her activity level. This elderly woman participates in activity one to three times per week; therefore, her BMR is multiplied by 1.375.
Activity level = 1,159.4 x 1.375
Activity level = 1,594.175 calories

Therefore, the women should ideally consume about 1,595 calories per day.

Food Pyramids as a Guide

2. The U.S. Department of Agriculture created an interactive tool,, to address individual dietary needs for the American population. At the site, individuals can enter personal information such as age, weight, height and activity level to determine caloric needs.

How the elderly get their calories also is important.

Researchers at Tufts University have revised the food guide pyramid for the elderly to focus on specific nutrient needs.
A healthy diet for the elderly consists of three or more daily servings of brightly colored vegetables, two or more servings of deeply colored fruits, six or more servings of whole and fortified grains, three or more servings of low-fat dairy and two or more servings of protein-rich foods such as lean meats, eggs and legumes.


3. Hydration is also a concern for the elderly due to their decreased sense of thirst. An adequate consumption of water is eight 8-ounce glasses of water, fruit juice, tea or coffee per day.



2 Comments on "How Many Calories Per Day for the Elderly?"

  1. Jay Mooney on Fri, 31st May 2013 12:20 pm 

    Very informative I care for my 85 year old Mom, dementia,copd,tia’s,depression,
    blah, blah, blah. There is some disagreement as to caloric intake it looks as if
    using your formula she needs around 1,700 calories per day. We do get here to eat
    proteins and carbs fairly well, fresh foods and roughage not so much. Suggestions?

  2. CLF on Sat, 29th Jun 2013 10:20 am 

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I recently had some family obligations that took me away from the site. Many times the guidelines serve most people well. However, people are different and therefore have different needs. I would need a little more info to accurately answer your questions. I can tell you that older people generally need less calories than younger adults. A combination of Protein, fat and carbohydrate is absolutely necessary at any age. I am happy to talk with you further. Please feel free to contact me.

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