For many dieters struggling to lose weight, experiencing a loss in appetite sounds like a dream come true. But for seniors who don’t need to lose weight, it can be hazardous to their health.
“Loss of appetite (and thirst) and changes in appetite are natural parts of aging, but it’s still important to make sure seniors get enough nutrients. Although poor appetite doesn’t necessary indicate a problem in the elderly, there are some warming signs, such as unexpected weight loss,” explains the senior resource A Place For Mom (APFM).
A diminished appetite may be due to medication side effects, depression, a lower metabolic rate and lessened physical activity, dental problems, gastrointestinal changes (such as lactose intolerance), and changes to the sense of smell and taste, according to APFM. “It’s critical for seniors to get the right nutrition for their changing dietary needs, because vitamin or nutrient deficiencies can cause significant health problems.”
The National Council on Aging offers advice on stimulating a senior’s appetite, with the goal of improved nutrition and health, through offering smaller meals more frequently; asking family and friends to join the senior for meals; encouraging activity which can spur an appetite; and supplementing with therapeutic nutrition products. Adding herbs and spices to a restrictive diet can make bland food more palatable.
Experts advise focusing on nutrition density versus quantity of food by providing foods rich in protein plus healthy fats and carbohydrates. When necessary, doctors may prescribe appetite stimulants.
Acknowledging that calorie needs for a sedentary senior are less than an active adult, Harvard Medical School states that seniors need about 13 calories for each pound of their body weight, if they are sedentary; 16 to 18 if they’re moderately to very active. This means that a moderately active senior woman weighing 115 pounds would need about 1,840 calories to maintain her weight.