Exposure to a bit of good old fashioned sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D into your life. This vitamin plays an essential role in a number of ways within our bodies, and this is perhaps more so for elderly people.

So why does a senior person living a healthy, active retirement lifestyle need vitamin D? And how much of it should you be getting?

Vitamin D and the elderly

Vitamin D plays a vital role in our body's ability to convert food into calcium, which as we all know gives us strong, healthy bones. 

It can do more than that, however. Many of our everyday bodily functions actually require vitamin D to work efficiently. For example, our muscles require the nutrient to move, and our nerves use it to transfer messages from the brain to our limbs.

According to recent research, it's possible that vitamin D deficiency is also directly linked to our brains, and can cause depression over time. For example, one such study, published in the US National Library of Medicine, stated that:

"Low [vitamin D] was independently associated with a greater increase in depressive symptom scores and incident depression in community-dwelling older adults."

However, as both the authors of the study and Vitamin D Council both point out, more studies are currently needed on this subject. 

How much vitamin D do you need?

In specific medical terms, you need over 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every day (IU being an international measurement for drugs and vitamins). 

Put plainly, and in a way that is actually practical, Australia's Cancer Council suggests you just need to perform regular daily activities out in the sun. In summer this need only be for a few minutes, and in winter it could be higher, such as an hour or two. 

So to get your fill of this healthy nutrient, make sure you enjoy regular walks outside, or partake in hobbies or sports such as gardening, lawn bowls and golf. Remember to wear sunscreen if you'll be outside for a prolonged period of time.

FAQ: How much sun does an elderly person need?