Supplements for Older Adults that Actually Help

an older woman takes a supplement
Older adults are at increased risk for nutrient deficiencies, making some supplements useful in preventing chronic disease, such as vitamin D and calcium supplements in the prevention of bone mineral loss.

Vitamins, minerals, and supplements – oh my! 70% of older adults are taking them; but are they really necessary as we grow older? After all, a healthy, balanced diet offers seniors necessary nutrients. But there are certain areas of deficiency which could make a case for the addition of a supplement. Be sure to seek the advice of the physician before making any changes, but with their recommendation or approval, consider the following:


Aging bones are prone to breaks and fractures when calcium intake is insufficient. This is particularly 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 in danger of complications from calcium deficiency. A hip fracture in men, for example, is much more likely to be fatal than it is for women.

The best natural sources for calcium are leafy greens, salmon, kale, broccoli, 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 each 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 is calcium’s best friend. They work most effectively when taken together to enhance not only bone health, but the immune and nervous systems and perhaps the heart as well. Sunshine is the best source for vitamin D, but aging skin, combined with the danger of skin cancer, can cause roadblocks to obtaining adequate levels. 

Recommendations are 15 mcg/600 IU per day up to age 70, and 20 mcg/800 IU per day for those 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 also common in older adults, and even more so for people who take certain medications (especially metformin or gastric acid inhibitors). Without adequate vitamin B12, older adults tend to be more susceptible to developing anemia, nerve damage or neuropathy, balance problems, depression, confusion, poor memory, and dementia. 

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

Unsure which supplements are right for you or a loved one? Let one of JFS Care’s caregivers help by enabling a visit to the doctor’s office to find out. Contact us at 213-383-2273 for more information about how we can help maintain wellness with professional home care services in Los Angeles, CA and the surrounding areas. To see a list of all the communities we serve, visit our service area page.