What do you think the fastest growing segment is among the U.S. population?
If you guessed Gen Z . . . you’d be wrong. Instead, it is the other end of the age spectrum – adults 85 and older. It also is projected that 98 million Americans (23.5%) will be 65 or older by 2060, an unprecedented level for our country.
People are living longer thanks to advances in medicine and science, so we can better treat and manage chronic conditions and diseases than ever before.
While the dairy checkoff is focused on Gen Z consumers (ages 9 to 23), we’re not overlooking their grandparents, and for good reason. Leading nutrition authorities are recognizing a gap in nutrition guidance for this population. While their lifespan is on the climb, the number of years spent living a healthy life is not corresponding with it. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, “Agencies could do more to help address the nutritional needs of older adults,” and called for the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) to better address this life stage’s unique nutrition needs.
National Dairy Council (NDC) is bringing awareness to the importance of assuring the aging population benefits from the basics of research-based advice, including how dairy consumption can benefit their daily nutrition and health needs. NDC recently shined a light on this area by convening a nutrition and wellness science forum titled, “Exploring the journey to healthy aging.”
It’s another example of NDC’s legacy of credible research and experts being able to host a gathering such as this. More than 30 nutrition leaders and scientists across academia, government, and non-governmental organizations were brought together to elevate the importance of nutrition for healthy aging and spotlight this population’s nutrient needs. Just as important, we worked to identify collaboration and gaps where research opportunities can further strengthen the case to better nourish aging Americans.
We are seeing three areas of opportunity where core elements of dietary patterns can support cognition, muscular/skeletal health, and prevention of metabolic disease.
NDC has a strong foundation of research that shows a diet featuring dairy can support muscular growth and bone health. We also have strong science in the areas of metabolic health supporting dairy’s relationship in reducing the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Cognition is a newer area of NDC exploration, and earlier this year we funded a study that showed older adults who drank three servings of milk a day increased levels of glutathione in the brain – an important antioxidant that helps protect the brain from damage that accompanies aging and aging-related diseases.
Dairy also offers other benefits that should appeal to aging consumers. Consider that many older citizens live on a fixed income and milk is an affordable option that provides 13 essential nutrients many may be lacking. Dairy also is accessible – there are literally hundreds of choices at most grocery stores. And dairy is a hydration option as many aging people fail to maintain proper levels, and we have science supporting how milk may be more effective than water and sports drinks.
Knowing the GAO recommended the Department of Health and Human Services develop a plan to focus on the nutrition needs of older adults in a future update to the DGA further underscores how important NDC’s role is of supporting science and providing education through the public process. The DGA serves as not only the foundation for school feeding programs, but it impacts other government-based nutrition efforts such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Meals on Wheels.
Also consider the innovation possibilities for dairy companies, with checkoff support, to produce dairy products and ingredients that provide nutrition-based solutions to the unique needs of seniors.
We’re excited for the opportunity to further bolster what we have known all along: dairy is an excellent nutrition option for people across the lifespan.