Coffee not only is America’s favorite drink, it’s also the most popular beverage of older adults aged 60 and up, according to the National Coffee Association. Not only that but coffee consumption by seniors increased nearly 1.5%, noted the NCA in its Spring 2023 National Coffee Data Trends report.
Many of us make a practice of drinking coffee to boost our energy levels and improve our mental alertness. The habit is so ingrained that not having that daily cup of joe in the morning can start the day off on the wrong foot. Older adults and aging seniors tend to experience a decline in cognitive function and energy levels, and studies have shown that drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverage stimulates the central nervous system and increases levels of dopamine (the “feel good” hormone). However, while coffee can provide some benefits for seniors, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks as well. What are some of the pros and cons of drinking coffee for seniors?
Benefits of Drinking Coffee for Seniors
Improved Cognitive Function: Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can improve cognitive function by increasing alertness and enhancing memory. This can be especially beneficial for seniors who are experiencing age-related cognitive decline. Recent studies showed a 62% to 70% decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in moderate coffee drinkers (3-5 cups per day) compared to low coffee drinkers.
Reduced Risk of Parkinson’s Disease: Research suggests that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Studies have also shown that coffee consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, a condition that is more common among seniors. “Coffee is jam-packed with phytochemicals that may act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, insulin-sensitivity boosters and more,” Jill Weisenberger, registered dietitian nutritionist told AARP.
Social Connection: For many seniors, drinking coffee is a social activity that can provide a sense of community and connection. Seniors who regularly visit coffee shops or cafes may have opportunities to interact with others and make new friends.
Risks of Drinking Coffee for Seniors
Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Caffeine can raise heart rate and blood pressure, which can be problematic for seniors who have underlying cardiovascular issues. It is important to monitor coffee intake and consult with a healthcare provider to determine a safe amount.
Interference with Medications: Coffee can interfere with the absorption of certain medications, which can be particularly concerning for seniors who may be taking multiple medications. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects or issues given that caffeine interactions with prescribed medications can reduce the effectiveness of drug therapy or even lead to toxicity.
Risk of Dehydration: Coffee is a diuretic, which means it can increase urine production and lead to dehydration. Seniors who drink coffee should also make sure to consume enough water to stay hydrated.
Risk of Insomnia: Drinking coffee later in the day can interfere with sleep, which can be a concern for seniors who already struggle with sleep issues. A study among nursing home residents with dementia showed the negative effects of caffeine on sleep and behaviors.
Let Your Body (and Family Doctor) Guide Your Coffee Consumption
So how much coffee is too little or too much? Many studies point to 50-100 milligrams of caffeine are well tolerated by a majority of older adults and the elderly – just enough for seniors who enjoy socializing over a cup of java. For reference: an 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains 80 to 100 milligrams. What’s defined as an appropriate amount of caffeination will vary by individual, especially those seniors who are managing chronic health conditions.
“Health Benefits and Risks for Seniors Drinking Coffee,” written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.