Old people often complain about the diminished taste perception. This is a legitimate complaint and can be attributed to two phenomena. The first is that taste buds lose their acuity with advanced age, the second involves how modern food in general is produced.
Multinational companies spend untold amounts of funds to create species that grow bigger, are of a uniform shape, have more an appealing colour and water a lot to encourage roots to pump the water to the product. All these yield a less intense tasting produce.
Animals are fed specially formulated feeds that help retain water. The meat of such animals has a less intense flavour and shrinks much more than organically those grown organically.
The first complaint of diminishing number of taste bus cannot be reversed, but the second problem could be solved, by using organic vegetables from reliable and conciencious farmers who care about the produce they sell and charge reasonable prices.
As old people find their taste buds become less perceptive they use more salt, which in turn helps push up blood pressure. This increases the possibility of a stroke that may have devastating repercussions on every day life.
One solution to solve the problem of diminishing taste perception is to use effective cooking techniques such as roasting, baking, BBQing and pan-frying. Steaming, boiling and poaching dilute taste.
On the average the human tongue has 10,000 buds and overtime they loose their acuity.
Retirement home managers hear complaints of bland food all the time. Many use now artificial flavouring to help intensify the natural flavour of some ingredients, i.e. beef, bacon, turkey in addition to herbs and spices.
Older people chew less vigorously and hence perceive flavours less.
Ideally, foods should be at their peak of ripeness or maturity and expertly prepared to taste their best. Unfortunately most of the produce we get in winter or that matter much of the year is picked before maturity and shipped thousands of kilometers to us.
Some come from California, others from Texas, Arizona, Florida, Chile, Argentina, Morocco, Spain and South Africa.
I believe using local produce to the extend possible can help to keep cost manageable and solve the problem of taste. In winter root vegetable and apples, pears are recommended.
Most of the served in retirement home is soft and those still with reasonable good teeth derive less pleasure.
A little research, a lot more attention to seasonality, and appropriate cooking techniques can help solve at least of the problems and pave the way to make life more enjoyable for aging or old people.