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Should You Start Taking Vitamins as an Older Adult, or Is It All Just Hype?

Senior woman holding a pill and a glass of water
Is taking vitamins as an older adult really necessary?

Vitamins, minerals, and supplements – oh my! 70% of seniors are taking them; but are they really necessary as we get older? A healthy, balanced diet offers seniors necessary nutrients, after all. However, there are certain areas of deficiency where supplement could be helpful. If you’re considering taking vitamins as an older adult, make sure to check with the physician before making any changes. With their approval or recommendation, consider the following:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are common in seniors, and even more so for those who take specific medicines (particularly metformin or gastric acid inhibitors). Without enough vitamin B12, older adults are more vulnerable to nerve damage or neuropathy, developing anemia, balance problems, poor memory, depression, confusion, and dementia.

The NIH recommends 2.4 mcg per day, which can be acquired through a diet rich in fish and clams, poultry, liver, meat, milk, eggs, and fortified cereals. Also, even large quantities of vitamin B12 have not been found to cause harm, unlike other vitamins and minerals, according to the NIH.


Calcium deficiencies can lead to breaks and fractures in aging bones. This is particularly true for post-menopausal women, with a staggering 50% of those over age 50 breaking a bone because of osteoporosis. Having said that, men are also at risk for significant complications from calcium deficiency. For example, a hip fracture in men is much more likely to be fatal than it is for women.

Leafy greens, salmon, kale, broccoli, and dairy products, are the richest natural sources of calcium, but most men over age 70 and women over age 50 are not getting adequate calcium from food alone. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 1,200 mg of calcium per day for women over age 51 and men over age 71, and 1,000 mg per day for men ages 51 – 70.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand. They work most effectively when taken together to improve not only bone health, but the nervous and immune systems and perhaps the heart as well. The best source of vitamin D is sunshine, but aging skin in addition to the danger of skin cancer can cause roadblocks to getting satisfactory levels.

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

Taking vitamins as an aging adult can be highly beneficial, and it doesn’t have to be one size fits all. Not sure which dietary supplements are ideal for you or a senior you love? Let one of The Care Company’s care providers offer transportation and accompaniment to the doctor's office to find out. Contact us online or at 416-422-2273 for additional details on how we can help enhance senior health with professional in-home care services.

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