Imagine spending the golden years of your retirement gardening, enjoying tofu shakes with berries fresh from the garden youâ??ve tended yourself. Tracy Dale does.
Imagine spending the golden years of your retirement gardening, enjoying tofu shakes with berries fresh from the garden you’ve tended yourself. Tracy Dale does. The 64-year-old registered nurse is opening a retirement home based on orthomolecular approaches to health–fresh-fruit tofu shakes will be just one of the perks.
Orthomolecular medicine looks at your individual nutritional needs. It involves therapeutic amounts of supplements to restore and maintain the molecular balance of vitamins, minerals and amino acids in your body.
Dale describes how her fascination with the work of Dr Abram Hoffer (a founding father of orthomolecular medicine) 10 years ago led her to realize she could not continue her work in a mental institution. That institution (and most others) fed patients, but there was no thought about nutrition. Medication was the only approach. Dale watched as patients grew worse and died of complications from medications.
"The big approach right now, almost everywhere, is still medication, medication, medication," says Dale. To counteract that approach, the focus of her new home will be to slow down the process of aging through proper nutrition–to increase energy and prevent depression and dementia.
Each patient will follow a customized diet, after assessment by a certified nutritionist.
"A very high percentage of people are allergic to flour and wheat and don’t know it," says Dale, so testing for allergies will be part of the process. Of the six people sitting around the dinner table, all may have a slightly different meal.
"We consider high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s, body fat," says Dale. The focus will be on organic–home-grown and high-fibre foods, herbs and vitamin supplements and no preservatives.
Dale understands the orthomolecular approach is not popular with larger retirement homes. Their focus is on profit and she sees an unwillingness to improve the health of seniors. She plans to introduce the ideas to the seniors slowly, to give them a choice.
"You cannot change their habits," she says. Instead she will look for "a smart way to reinforce proper nutrition." Some of the smart ways Dale has in mind include the fresh-fruit tofu shakes, lentil spread with garlic and spelt or kamut bread instead of white bread.
Dr Hoffer agrees that it may be difficult to change eating habits built over a lifetime. The first thing he would change in a retirement home diet would be to ease back on sweets while keeping the diet palatable. He did explain that fruit would be acceptable in a reduced-sugar diet. Cutting foods with added sugars also tends to cut preservatives.
Dr Hoffer noted that one-third of elderly people are constipated. Tracy Dale’s plan to reduce foods like pasta, rice and flour could increase fibre intake. He pointed out the more "colored" foods than "white" foods in your diet the better–yams and sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, for instance.
Dr Hoffer echoed Dale’s concern about food allergies, saying firmly that if there is clear evidence of allergies, stay away from those foods. He also expressed the importance of including vitamin C in the diet, not only for elderly people but for "every human."
It’s a different idea of retirement. Dale wants patients to have a smooth transition from home to the retirement home, so she will house up to six people in a small, family setting. Dale will be the resident nurse, with support from a certified nutritionist and a local physician.
The renovated Victorian home is in Lindsay, Ontario, a small farming community of 20,000 people. Dale calls it an "undiscovered town." It’s a labor of love for Dale, not a money-making project, so she will be priced competitively with local big retirement facilities.
The plan is to spread the word about orthomolecular health slowly. Her patients will garden and grow more active in their retirement. Their families will notice improvement. And they will start to ask questions about the importance of nutrition for good health.
Tracy Dale follows an orthomolecular diet herself and feels great. She is embarking on a new venture when many would be content to slow down and settle in. "I’m the example!"