Older people should increase protein intake to maintain independence in later life – RPC expert warns

By October 26, 2021News

26th October 2021: Many retirees are falling victim to the common misconception that younger people in their 20s require more protein than people in their 70s, according to leading dietician specialising in nutrition for older people. Sarah Keogh, Health Lifestyle course specialist at the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPC) and registered dietician at EatWell.ie, is encouraging retirees to introduce more protein to their diets to maintain their independence in later years.


Through her engagement with older people, the RPC expert has reported a lack of understanding from retirees about benefits of making sure they have enough protein in later years and how much protein they should be consuming on a daily basis. According to Sarah, retirees need to consume more protein than younger generations.

Sarah Keogh said: “We usually find that people consume less protein in their later years, particular when they become less active. It often comes as a surprise to older people that they should be consuming more, or the same amount, of protein as young people in their 20s and 30s. High protein diets and related products are often marketed towards younger people, particularly those with a keen interest in exercise and fitness. However, older people need to be aware of their requirements and ensure they are including enough protein in their diet.”

Research show that the average older person will lose up to 16% of their muscle mass per year after the age of 70. While eating an adequate amount of protein cannot prevent muscle loss, not eating enough protein can be an exacerbating factor for age-related muscle loss in older adults. In her work with course attendees on the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland courses, Sarah encourages retirees to consider the benefits of including plenty of protein and how it can help with maintaining independence in later life.

Sarah Keogh added: “Older people need to be practical about how the decisions they make in early retirement will affect them into their 70, 80s and beyond. In the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland courses, we are engaging with retirees one to two years before retirement, which allows adequate time for simple lifestyle changes that can make a huge and positive difference. Older people need to be realistic about the impact of their lifestyle choices. We do not recommend including more protein for aesthetic reasons, but to enable retirees to maintain their independence and basic functions when it comes to simple things, such as walking up a flight of stairs, dressing themselves or getting up out of a chair or bed.”

Sarah notes that while protein supplements can assist with increased intake, including a source of protein in every meal can ensure that older adults are meeting their daily recommended protein intake to preserve muscle and bone as they age. Experts on protein and aging recommend an intake of 1 – 1.2 grammes per kilogramme of body weight per day [i], from animal and plant-based sources.

The Retirement Planning Council of Ireland provides support to pre-retirees across Ireland, delivering in-person and online pre-retirement courses. Sarah Keogh delivers the ‘Health and Lifestyle’ module, focusing on diet, exercise and mental health in retirement. For further information, visit www.rpc.ie

[i] Scientific recommendations for food-based dietary guidelines for older adults in Ireland.pdf (page 40)