As we get older, changes in our body can affect our desire and ability to eat. A decreased appetite is common in seniors and can have complex causes. While concerning, there are ways to manage loss of appetite to stay healthy as you age.
Changes in Taste and Smell Impact Appetite
Our senses naturally dull as part of the aging process. Taste buds become less sensitive, making food seem blander and less flavorful. The sense of smell also declines, muting the aromas and flavors of food. When food doesn’t taste or smell as good, seniors may lose interest in eating. Finding ways to enhance taste and smell, such as using spices, herbs, lemon juice, and other strong flavors, can help make food more aromatic and appealing.
Medications Can Suppress Appetite
Medications commonly prescribed to seniors, like those for high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and cholesterol often have appetite suppression as a side effect. The more medications a senior takes, the more likely appetite will be impacted. Talking to a doctor about potential side effects of medications and exploring alternative options can help minimize appetite issues.
Underlying Health Conditions Affect Eating
Sometimes a loss of appetite is caused by an underlying physical or mental health condition. Issues like loss of appetite in seniors with dementia, depression, chronic pain, constipation, and dental problems can all negatively affect the desire to eat. Identifying and properly treating any underlying medical conditions may naturally improve appetite and nutrition. Discussing any concerns with a doctor is important to uncover and address potential health factors influencing appetite.
Socializing Around Meals Helps
Making mealtimes more social and enjoyable can provide motivation to eat. Eating with family, friends or in community dining settings makes mealtimes less isolating. Meal delivery services that provide social contact along with food are another option. Having positive social interactions around food can stimulate appetite when eating alone loses appeal.
Nutrient Dense Foods Are Essential
When appetites are decreased, focusing on eating nutrient dense calories becomes even more important. Foods like eggs, dairy products, protein shakes, nuts, nut butters, and avocados pack a lot of calories and nutrients in small servings. Eating nutrient dense foods helps maintain nutrition, energy and health when consuming fewer overall calories.
Snack Frequently to Increase Calories
Eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks throughout the day can help add calories. Light snacking between meals on healthy foods like whole grain toast, yogurt, fruit, vegetables with dip, cheese and crackers keeps energy levels up when big meals feel overwhelming.
Dehydration can suppress appetite, so drinking adequate fluids is essential. Water, milk, juice, soup broths, smoothies, shakes and herbal teas all contribute hydration. Caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and soda have less hydrating benefits, so should be balanced with other beverage choices. Monitoring urine color is a simple way to gauge hydration.
Try Appetite Stimulating Supplements
Some natural supplements like ginger, fennel, mint and fenugreek may help boost appetite mildly. Discussing supplement options with a doctor is wise to ensure safety and effectiveness based on overall health conditions. While not guaranteed, some seniors find supplements provide a modest appetite boost.
Communicate with Your Doctor
Discussing appetite concerns with a doctor is wise to identify any underlying issues and get customized guidance on managing appetite changes. With the right support, information and solutions, seniors can find ways to eat well and get needed nutrition, even when appetite wanes. Being proactive and communicating with healthcare providers is key to minimizing the effects of appetite loss with age. There are options to explore that can help seniors continue enjoying food and maintaining a healthy diet despite changes in appetite.