Cappuccino, Caffè Latte, Black Tea: Just How Good is Coffee and Caffeine for the Elderly?

April 19, 2022

Do you like coffee? How do you take it? Do you like your coffee black? Are you a cappuccino aficionado? Or do you prefer more milk and enjoy cafe lattes? I prefer some milk, but not too much. If you are one of the many seniors who drink coffee, you aren’t alone. In the USA, 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day. 64% of Americans drink coffee each day and, on average, we spend about $20 a week on coffee.

Finland consumes the most coffee in the world -- three times what Americans drink! 

The Finns consume 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of coffee each year. Americans only consume 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of coffee per person. While this may seem a lot, the USA is low on the list of coffee-enjoying countries. 

With all that coffee -- not to mention all that caffeine -- you're probably wondering about the benefits of coffee, or are there any downsides to seniors drinking coffee? Well, let’s look at the coffee pros and cons together.

How Much Coffee is Too Much for Seniors?

Unless your physician has specifically told you to stop drinking coffee, there is no need to stop drinking coffee just because you are getting older. We’re all getting older. But we’re also getting better!  We’re always wondering if we should lay off certain foods as we get older. Some ask the same about tea, coffee, and alcohol. So, how much coffee is good for us?

Too much coffee can lead to anxiety, headaches, restlessness, and even heart palpitations because of the overstimulation of the nervous system. Too much coffee can upset your stomach and bowels as well. Two cups of coffee a day is fine, but if you drink more than four cups of coffee a day, you may want to talk with your doctor.

In Italy, coffee is served with a small glass of water and often with slices of lemon. These help with digestion and protect the stomach. It’s also very elegant and European! I don’t know about the Italians, but a big glass of iced coffee really beats the summer heat for me! Just an idea if you or a loved one want to do more than just wake up and smell the coffee.

“They are recommended to take decaffeinated coffee, and this only if their stomach is healthy, because both decaffeinated coffee and coffee with caffeine cause heartburn. Moderate amounts of coffee (50-100 mg of caffeine or 5-10 g of coffee powder a day) are well tolerated by a majority of elderly people, who enjoy to meet and chat over a cup of coffee.” R Zivković

What About the Downside of Coffee? Should the Elderly Avoid Caffeine in General?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring psychostimulant found in many foods and drinks. Many foods contain caffeine, and unfortunately, they are all delicious! If you are drinking coffee, you may like to watch how many other things you consume also contain caffeine. There are definitely caffeine pros and cons. Like everything, enjoy it in moderation!

Foodstuffs that contain caffeine – and on average, how much:

  • Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate / 95 mg, 47 mg, 24 mg
  • Dark and Milk Chocolate / 80 mg, 43 mg
  • Ice cream and Frozen yogurt / 50 mg, 80 mg
  • Sodas and Energy drinks / 40 mg, 170 mg
  • Protein bars / circa 10 mg

Pain-relievers like aspirin contain caffeine, as do nose sprays and cough medicines. You can find out more about which medicines contain caffeine right here

“A caffeine allergy develops when the immune system incorrectly identifies caffeine as a harmful substance. Skin rashes are perhaps the main differentiating feature between a caffeine intolerance and a caffeine allergy. However, with a caffeine allergy, the severity of symptoms is typically linked to how fast they develop. It is also possible that certain fungi on processed coffee or tea leaves may trigger an allergic response unrelated to caffeine.” Very Well Health

Does Caffeine Sensitivity Increase with Age?

Some people reduce the amount of caffeine as they get older or to help them relax when other stress-related things are happening around them. Some people do yoga to relax and adjust their eating habits. What is your health regimen like? Do you take vitamins and probiotics? Do you abstain from caffeine completely? 

1 cup of coffee, 1 dark chocolate bar, 1 frozen yogurt = 250 mg caffeine (average)

We should probably not be consuming more than 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day. As we age, our body becomes more sensitive to caffeine. I'm afraid that those seven cups of coffee a day we enjoyed when we were twenty years old are gone for good. In addition to being a stimulant, caffeine is also a mild diuretic -- which means you need to pee more frequently.

Our body takes longer to metabolize everything we consume, including caffeine, as we get older. We also get more easily dehydrated than when we were younger. However, if you consume a moderate amount of coffee, there are many benefits! 

“Medical experts agree that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is just fine for average seniors.” Medical Pros on Call

7 Reasons Why Drinking Coffee is Good for Seniors

  1. Coffee is a good source of antioxidants like Cafestol, Trigonelline, and Melanoidin.
  2. Coffee can help boost our brainpower and, at the same time, helps protect it by stimulating blood flow.
  3. Coffee can help reduce the risk of several diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
  4. Coffee can help in the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  5. Drinking coffee and meeting with friends is a positive social activity.
  6. Coffee is a good way to start your day. It gives you a nice perk up in the morning.
  7. Coffee is a simple and inexpensive drink to make yourself – it also makes a nice treat when you win big on the bingo game and treat yourself to an expensive café coffee in town!

Is coffee bad for dementia patients? 

This is a good question, and probably a very important one. Almost 14% of the American population suffers from some form of dementia. That is one in seven Americans over the age of 70. Coffee contains antioxidants that assist with the increased blood flow in the body, including the brain.

While many studies have shown that coffee is beneficial to memory, other studies show that too much coffee has the opposite effect on our memory. As every person has a unique history and needs, please ask your doctor.

“3 out of 5 studies support coffee's favorable effects against cognitive decline, dementia or AD. In addition, two studies had combined coffee and tea drinking and indicated some positive effects on cognitive functioning.” Marjo H Eskelinen, Miia Kivipelto

I Don't Drink Coffee. I Drink Tea. How Much Tea Should Seniors Consume?

In addition to preventing certain diseases, tea can also enhance some of the body's functions, and, like coffee, it can help perk us up and be an important part of our social activities. The mind is helped by tea drinking, too -- it can help us focus and remain alert.

Tea has been consumed for thousands of years -- black and green teas. Green tea also contains caffeine. There is a large selection of herbal teas available these days. Two to three cups of tea, if you are not consuming other oxidates, is a safe amount. 

Like with all dietary questions, you should ask your caregiver or doctor about the effects of anything you consume with your medications and the lifestyle you lead.

“Drinking green or black tea lowered the risk of cognitive decline by about 50% for older adults, according to a study in The Journal of Nutritional Health & Aging. Tea consumption reduced risk even more for people who carry the APOE4 gene, which increases the odds of developing Alzheimer's disease.” Chartwell 

Chocolate has Caffeine, too. How Much Chocolate is Good for Seniors? 

We knew you would think about chocolate! A piece or two of good quality dark chocolate can be good for you. We promise to write an article about chocolate, so please check back or sign up for our newsletter. It will be a sweet article!

“Caffeine may help prevent age-related mild cognitive impairment. It may also prevent or delay dementia. The Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study, which followed people from middle age into their seventies and beyond, found that caffeine may lower a senior's lifetime risk of dementia.” The Arbor Company

Are You Ready For a Cup of Joe?

Are you a coffee lover? Or are you a teetotaler? We’d love to know. Then go ahead and share this with your friends. Want to read more articles like this? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, where we send weekly emails with helpful and fun articles

Senior Living FYI

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