Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q: Do seniors need any special vitamins? 

A:Our nutritional needs change as we age. And sometimes, several key vitamins and minerals can be low or deficient in older adults. Pop a vitamin, right? But wait: how do you know which of these supplements actually work –and which ones may be a waste of money for seniors? Hint: when in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist.


Which vitamins and why?

There are 13 essential vitamins necessary for optimal cellular functioning. In seniors, vitamins B12, B6, folate and Vitamin D are frequently deficient, due to changes in metabolism and absorption as we age. Vitamin deficiencies can manifest in infections, poor wound healing and cognitive impairment. Your primary care physician can order a special set of labs to check for vitamin deficiencies (although your insurance may not cover it). Importantly, some vitamins and supplements can interact with your medication and/or affect pre-existing health conditions, so definitely talk to your care team before adding supplements to your diet.

Safe and effective?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established Good Manufacturing Practices that companies must follow to help ensure the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their dietary supplements. But, according to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, “The FDA does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed.” Still, the US Pharmacopeia (USP) and National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) both verify supplement ingredients — and you can find their seal on approved supplements. The FDA also has a Dietary Supplement Ingredient Directory, where you can look up individual ingredients and read what the agency has to say about it.  Buying online? Your best bet is to buy supplements in person so you can verify expiration dates and look for certification seals.

 How do I know which form is best?

Vitamins come in pill, capsule, gummy and liquid forms. Some are chewable. Most vitamins need to be taken with food. It’s really best to treat your supplement as you do your medications and choose a form (and time of day) you can be consistent with. Get guidance from your pharmacist, doctor or nutrition counselor about reputable brands and appropriate dosage.

Bottom Line

A balanced, colorful diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy body, but there are times when a supplement may be called for. Even those labeled “natural” can possibly interact with medications or your particular health condition, so make it a point to talk to your doctor before adding nutritional boosters to your diet.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.