Throughout the duration of the aging process, our bodies undergo countless changes that may come to affect our lives in various ways. One of these changes that is frequently felt by seniors relates to eating patterns, often manifesting in the form of a decrease or total loss of appetite.
The maintenance of healthy eating patterns is vital for everyone, but the increasingly delicate state of health that characterizes the experience of many seniors in their older age makes ensuring that there is sufficient intake of all necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients on a consistent basis all the more important. A well-rounded awareness of the possible contributors to appetite-loss and the behavioural signs and indicators to keep an eye on can help work towards recognizing and addressing any appetite related problems that may occur so that the seniors of Calgary can continue to work towards achieving the best possible state of health.
Why Appetite Changes
There are many varied changes that take place as people age, but each individual senior’s experience is based upon their specific circumstances. Knowing the contributors that are present in a particular senior’s life can help to better address prominent issues. Some of the factors that may cause changes in eating patterns for seniors are as follows:
- Side-Effect of Medication
- Other Health Conditions
- Depression or Other Mental Health Concerns
- Loss of Enthusiasm or Interest in Food (As a Result of Age Related Changes to Taste and Smell)
- Lack of Energy to Prepare Meals
- Dental or Chewing Problems
Notable changes in appetite can also be symptoms of larger health concerns, such as:
- Some Cancers
- Salivary Gland Dysfunction
- Throat and Mouth Infections
- Thyroid Disorders
If you are worried about significant changes in appetite, meet with a doctor to discuss concerns and potential causes.
Promoting and Stimulating Appetite
While slight changes in appetite are a normal occurrence with age, a significant decrease in appetite or major change in eating habits can have a large effect upon the health of seniors. Having a diet that does not allow for the intake of enough calories to properly fuel the body, or lacks enough of the necessary nutrients can affect both physical and mental functioning in ways that negatively impact overall health. Strategies can be implemented that help to promote better and more health-oriented eating habits for seniors.
- Make an Eating Schedule: Hunger signals are meaningfully attached to habit, so organising scheduled eating times for meals and snacks can, over a period of time, help encourage more routine stimulation of appetite signals, motivating seniors to eat more often and, as a result, get in more nutrients and calories.
- Eat Socially: Many seniors are saddened and discouraged by the prospect of eating meals alone, sometimes to the extent that they would rather avoid eating all together. Making meals social by scheduling meals with friends, family, or social groups in or outside of the home can encourage seniors to eat.
- Plan: Some seniors don’t eat well because they are unmotivated to prepare food for themselves alone. Making arrangements that make cooking and preparing food easy can help make a difference for seniors. Prepare food in advance, or arrange for someone to be there to provide assistance at meal times.
- Focus on Calorie and Nutrient Density: Instead of making seniors eat large plates of food to make sure they get all that their bodies need, try opting for foods that are high in nutrients and have enough calories so that they can provide all the benefits without huge portions.
- Navigate Food Aversions: Changes in senses of smell and taste that come as a result of either medications or just with age can make eating some foods unenjoyable. Try exploring different options that are just as full of nutrients but are more appealing to eat.
- Appetite Stimulants: If all else fails and getting enough food and nutrient intake on a consistent basis remains difficult, prescription appetite stimulants exist that may be able to help. Have seniors consult with a health professional to determine whether these stimulants are a suitable option.
Some elements involved in the process of aging, such as the need for a reduced number of calories because of less physical activity, gastrointestinal changes that effect appetite, and different food preferences associated with changes in sense of smell and taste, are not always signs of ill-health, unless their effects become so prominent that they begin to prevent seniors from receiving the nutrients they need to remain healthy. More severe changes can, however, be damaging to the overall physical and mental health of seniors in a multitude of ways. Building an awareness changes in diet and appetite, and keeping track of the issues that may result, is important for regulating and deciding whether these changes are just normal age-related adjustments, or whether they indicate matters of greater concern.