Elderly adults require regular nourishment to remain healthy and strong. Citizens over 70 years old require more vitamin D and calcium than young people to help maintain bone health. A balanced diet also helps improve energy levels in seniors, helping them to maintain an active lifestyle.
However, as many elderly adults age, their appetite begins to decrease. Even though this is a normal part of growing older, it can still raise health concerns and requires attention.
If your elderly loved one is showing signs of appetite loss, here are five tips on how to increase the appetite in elderly adults and understand the common causes of appetite loss.
Table of Contents
- How to Stimulate and Increase the Appetite of the Elderly
- What Causes a Decrease in Appetite in Elderly Adults?
- Emphasize the Importance of a Healthy Diet
How to Stimulate and Increase the Appetite of the Elderly
There are many reasons why an older adult may experience a decrease in appetite, but you can work with them to rediscover their love of food with these tips.
Encourage Them to Eat With Others
Depression and loneliness are ubiquitous in the elderly. Statistics from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have shown that over ⅓ of adults over the age of 45, and especially the elderly have reported feelings of loneliness. The report also suggested that almost ¼ of adults over 65 are considered to be socially isolated. With loneliness and depression often causing a reduction in appetite, many elderly people are more likely to skip meals, reducing their calorie and nutritional intake.
With this in mind, why not invite your loved ones for dinner, or if they are unable, take dinner over to their place and eat with them? Eating with other people enhances the dining experience by presenting dining as a social activity instead of a chore.
If your loved one is able, you can even encourage them to plan social dates with neighbors or friends nearby. Adding a social aspect to their meals can increase their appetite and benefit their mental health.
Create a Routine
As people age, their physiological drive to consume food decreases. Despite the hunger reduction, the human body still needs adequate food for sufficient nutrient intake and calories for basic bodily functions, such as immune health.
If your loved one doesn’t already have an eating routine, encourage them to set a schedule and eat at the same time every day. A sense of consistency trains the mind and body to expect food at certain times in the day, so they’re more likely to become hungry at mealtimes.
A set routine also creates a sense of anticipation so they can look forward to future meals. This regularity can also give you peace of mind, as you’ll be able to track when and what your loved one is consuming much easier.
Provide Liquid Meals
If a senior struggles to chew and swallow, it can drastically reduce their desire to eat, especially if it’s causing them pain. These difficulties are often a cause of medication making the mouth dry, dental problems, or a previous procedure. It could also be a neurological issue or the result of a stroke.
Many seniors have trouble chewing or maneuvering silverware, often causing them quite a lot of discomfort. Offering your loved ones liquid foods such as smoothies, soups, and blended meals along with bottled nutritional drinks can instantly alleviate the anxiety around eating in some elderly people.
Providing softer food options that are easier to consume also helps ensure they receive sufficient minerals and nutrients in their diet, increasing their overall strength, health, and fitness.
Offer Healthy Snacks
While snacking between meals is often considered an appetite ruiner in younger people, many elderly people may prefer to eat little and often. Without the overwhelm of large serving sizes, they may feel more inclined to attempt eating. Healthy snacks with nutritional value throughout the day can still support a balanced diet.
You should ensure these snacks are high in calories and especially high in protein, for example, cheeses, meats, bread, crackers, and full-fat yogurts.
This is because as bodies age, protein digestion and processing become less efficient. This is why elderly people require much more of the nutrient to maintain muscle strength and mass, bone health, and other vital physiological functions.
Let Them Choose Their Meals
Regardless of age, people don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s being told to eat. If your loved one is struggling with their appetite but wants to increase their food consumption, get them involved in the process.
Have them suggest things they would like to eat, and how to prepare them. This not only provides a sense of empowerment, but it allows seniors to become more engaged too.
What Causes a Decrease in Appetite in Elderly Adults?
There are many potential reasons an elderly adult’s appetite might decline. Besides challenges with chewing, swallowing, or known illnesses, here are some ideas why your loved one may experience a decrease in appetite:
- Loss of Taste or Taste Bud Changes. As the body ages, it is more likely for people to experience taste bud loss or changes. Taste buds becoming less capable of detecting flavors may put seniors off eating, as food appears unappetizing and bland.
- Reduced Activity. Regular exercise and movement naturally increase a person’s appetite. With many seniors facing limitations in their mobility, it can be challenging to move enough to work up an appetite like they used to.
- Dehydration. Dehydration is a significant cause of appetite loss. Many elderly people do not get enough regular fluids, which can directly impact their desire to eat.
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Emphasize the Importance of a Healthy Diet
By learning how to increase the appetite in elderly loved ones and encouraging them to consume regular meals, you’ll help them sustain a healthy, balanced diet and improve their overall health.
Not only does a wholesome diet make for a healthy body, but it also makes for a healthy mind. Encouraging the elderly person in your life to increase their food intake successfully can lead to a much happier life.
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