Do you remember taking a chewable cartoon character vitamin every day when you were a child? Our parents told us those fruit-flavored characters would make us big and strong. You may have had a favorite color/flavor, but you were happy to take one every day.

As adults, you may have switched to a multi-vitamin pill to supplement your diet. They were definitely not as fun as the chewables, but you felt better about maintaining your health, even when life called for fast food dinners and stress at work. 

Now that you are entering a new chapter in your life, you need a new type of supplement. As you age, your body needs particular vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and reduce the effects of aging. Something that allows you to live your best life in your senior years. And now you can find supplements in fruity-flavored gummies, just like the kiddos! 

In 2013, Gallup conducted a poll that reported more than 50% of Americans take vitamin supplements, including 68% aged 65 and older. In 2017, a study from the Journal of Nutrition found the number had risen to 70%, with significantly higher use reported among women (76%) than men (62%).  29% of the older adults polled reported taking four or more supplements.

The most frequently reported motivations for supplements: to improve overall health (41%), to maintain bone health (37%), to maintain general health (36%), to supplement diet (22%), and for heart health and cholesterol (22%). Most users also reported they were not under doctor’s orders to take the supplements. They were acting on their own.

If you remember only one thing from this blog, please remember this. It’s recommended that you consult your doctor before taking anything or doing anything that will affect your health. That includes taking any vitamin, mineral, or supplement. 

Your doctor will know which supplement you need based on your health, diet, and lifestyle. We’ll talk more about how lifestyle changes may be a better solution a little later in this blog. The doctor will also know how your current medications will interact with a supplement. Please don’t skip this step.

Some Definitions

Let’s discuss the differences between vitamins, minerals, and supplements.  

Vitamins are essential micronutrients that come from plants or animals. Humans need small quantities of vitamins every day. Vitamins keep your body working properly. Some vitamins strengthen your resistance to infection and make your blood clot properly, while others help your body create energy from the food you eat or keep your nerves healthy.  The best way to get enough vitamins is through a healthy diet. 

There are 13 essential vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • The eight B vitamins
    • B6 pyridoxine
    • B12 cyanocobalamin
    • B3 niacin
    • B5 pantothenic acid
    • B1 thiamine
    • B2 riboflavin
    • B7 biotin
    • B9 folate/folic acid

Your body also needs minerals to help it function properly. Minerals come from soil and water, not plants and animals. Your body needs all types of vitamins, but not all types of minerals.  You only need some, like iodine and fluoride, in very small quantities. There are also minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium that you need in substantial amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a balanced and healthy diet, you may be consuming enough of most minerals. Minerals help keep your bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly. Minerals are also helpful for making enzymes and hormones.

Essential minerals for your health include:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus 
  • Potassium 
  • Sodium
  • Chloride 
  • Magnesium 
  • Iron 
  • Zinc 
  • Iodine
  • Fluoride

Supplements are any non-prescribed product consumed for health reasons. This very broad category comprises things like a multivitamin pill, a fiber pill, fish oil, probiotics, or any combination of vitamins, minerals, and/or other ingredients. For this blog, we will concentrate on individual vitamins and minerals, which you may consume individually or in a multivitamin. 

Lifestyle/Diet vs. Vitamins

As noted, doctors overwhelmingly prefer that you get your daily allowance of vitamins and minerals through the food you eat rather than supplements. Since we don’t need a lot of any particular vitamin or mineral, just a few changes or additions to your diet might be all you need. This is why it is crucial to consult your doctor before taking any supplement. Accidentally taking too much of some of these elements may be harmful to your health. In the next section, we’ll tackle which vitamins and minerals are the most crucial for seniors and offer some ideas on the foods you should eat to add more to your body. 

Vitamins and Minerals for Older Adults

According to doctors, older adults need their daily allowance of vitamins and minerals (either from food or supplements) for these reasons:

  • As we age, our bodies are less efficient at absorbing key nutrients from food.
  • Some vitamin-rich foods can become difficult to chew or digest as we age.
  • Our bones need more calcium as we age because they can become more brittle.
  • Certain medications, especially diuretics, can flush nutrients out of your body before they are properly absorbed.
  • Some age-related diseases and conditions hinder your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Others require a special diet low in particular vitamins and nutrients.

With that in mind, here are the vitamins and minerals that are most important for a senior’s overall health. The recommended doses shown in the chart are for people aged 70 and above.  

If you remember only one thing from this blog, please remember this. It’s recommended that you consult your doctor before taking anything or doing anything that will affect your health. That includes taking any vitamin, mineral, or supplement.

Vitamin/MineralWhy we need itHow much do we need?Food Sources
Vitamin CVitamin C plays a key role in immune system health and metabolism. It helps to prevent cataracts and to decrease vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration.Recommended dose:
75 mg for men daily
90 mg for women daily
The human body can only get vitamin C from outside sources. It is found in most fruits and vegetables including oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, and winter squash.
Vitamin DFor years, scientists thought Vitamin D's only role was to enhance the absorption of calcium from food. Now research shows that Vitamin D can reduce chronic pain,help guard against heart disease, and boost the immune system.Recommended dose: 800 IU dailyThe ideal source of this critical nutrient is sunlight. It is also found in tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 may help older adults avoid dementia and other brain disorders. It also helps keep our nerves and blood cells healthy.
As we age, our bodies have a hard time absorbing B12, so taking a supplement may be helpful.
Recommended dose: 2.4 micrograms dailyVitamin B12 is in many animal products including meat, poultry, and eggs.

Please remember that doctors recommend that we consume our daily doses through our diet. However, these vitamins and minerals are available as supplements to help you stay healthy and are safe when taken in the correct dosage. 

Men vs. Women Needs

As you can see in our chart, the recommended dosages vary between men and women. The main reason is that men’s bodies are generally larger than women’s, so they need a larger dosage to be effective. 

However, some differences go beyond size and dosing. Taking a vitamin formulated for the opposite sex may not give you what your body needs.

Calcium is the most critical for women. As we age, a woman’s bone density decreases at a faster rate than a mens. That is why women over 30 need higher amounts of calcium for bone health and Vitamin D to help absorb calcium. Men need only more Vitamin D to absorb the calcium they ingest from food.  

Another important mineral is iron. Most women need less iron as they age, but men need the same amount. Too much iron can damage your liver, heart, and pancreas. An excess of iron can also lead to arthritis and joint pain. 

While some of the differences in the recommended dosages may seem like small amounts, it’s best to ask your doctor if you are unsure about the dosage you should take of any vitamin or mineral. 

Where Can I Get My Vitamins/Minerals?

Vitamin and mineral supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. That means any supplier can make unverified claims about their supplements. The best way to shop for supplements is to ask for recommendations from your doctor or look for reviews from people you trust. You can also look for USP verified supplements. This certification ensures the listed ingredients are actually contained in the supplement and are in the stated amounts. 

Some supplements are covered by Medicare. Here are a few examples:

  • Niacin and Vitamin D may be covered by Medicare Part B when prescribed by a doctor to treat certain conditions.
  • Medicare Part B may also cover vitamins as part of a prescribed diet for diabetes, kidney disease, or after a kidney transplant.
  • Some Medicare Part D or Medicaid Advantage plans may include specific vitamins and supplements as a part of their drug formulary. 

You may purchase vitamins and mineral supplements at your usual health and beauty retailers such as drug stores and mass merchandisers. You can also visit vitamin stores and health stores like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe. Amazon also stocks supplements. 

Staying healthy as we age is so important. You can take control of your aging process by eating right, keeping active, and asking your doctor if you need to supplement your diet with life-giving vitamins and minerals.