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Why Seniors Might Not Eat Enough

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Most seniors simply may not need to eat as much as they used to. When a person gets older and becomes less active, their calorie requirements go down; thus, an older adult who lives a sedentary lifestyle does not require as many calories to satisfy the body’s energy needs. This reduced calorie need can lead to a natural decline in appetite. Senior_Client_Eating_Nutrition.png

A more important question is, “Is the senior eating a balanced diet to meet his or her nutritional needs?” If the senior in your life consumes fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, then he or she might be maintaining a good nutritional status despite not eating a lot. If he or she doesn’t consume enough nutrient-rich foods, here are five possible reasons why:

It makes sense that you need good teeth to enjoy food. Ill-fitting dentures, cavities or gum disease can make it difficult or even painful for a senior to chew food, so they stop eating. And seniors with cognitive issues like dementia may not be able to tell you that their mouth hurts. To help in this situation, try preparing soft foods that are loaded with flavor, such as mashed potatoes topped with melted low-fat cheese and sour cream.

A person’s sense of taste naturally declines with age, and many drugs can further reduce a person’s ability to discern the flavors of foods. Talk with the senior to find out if he or she finds eating unappealing because his or her sense of taste is “off.” If this is the case, help the senior identify wholesome foods that will deliver great nutrition, even in small quantities. In your meal planning, find ways to incorporate fresh vegetables and fruits; whole grain breads and pastas; and flavorings, like fresh lemon juice, to add a punch of taste to every bite.

The life events that occur in older age, such as losing a spouse, can cause mild or serious depression. Depression and stress can suppress one’s appetite and can lead to less eating and poor nutrition.

Even people who enjoyed cooking when they were younger may find it challenging to lift heavy pans, chop vegetables and perform other rigorous tasks required to prepare a meal. And if they are cooking for one, they may not find the effort to be worth it. To make cooking easier for the senior, you can help by offering to prep food in advance. Take one afternoon a week to chop vegetables or meats, and then put them into easy-open containers for the senior to use later that week. (Tip: Here are some nutritious, easy-to-prepare recipes.)

Home Instead Senior Care research shows that a lack of companionship is the biggest mealtime challenge for seniors. Dining alone can magnify loneliness and feelings of depression, which, in turn, can suppress appetite and lead to poor eating. You can help by spending mealtime with your senior client or aging loved one as often as possible. Fortunately, there are many resources available on the web for anyone who is craving companionship. Seniors might also be interested in taking the Sunday Dinner Pledge, designed to bring the whole family together for a sit-down meal every weekend.

This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content herein is for general informational purposes only. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this newsletter with other sources, including your own physician, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.


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