Understanding and Managing Appetite Decline in Seniors

What Can Cause an Appetite Decline in Seniors?

Appetite decline in seniors is very common, for a number of reasons, including:
Feeling as though they've lost control over other aspects of life
Loneliness and having no one to share meals with
Depression and/or grief
Loss of taste or smell that makes food less appealing
A routine that doesn't include regular mealtimes
Problems with chewing, swallowing, or self-feeding
Difficulty with preparing meals
A sedentary lifestyle

It is essential to first talk with the person's doctor and dentist to eliminate any health issues or medication side effects that may be causing the problem. Once it's determined that there is not a medical basis for the change in appetite, try these strategies to help improve the individual's enjoyment in eating in order to maintain proper nutrition.

Offer high-calorie foods in small portions
As opposed to three large meals per day, try smaller servings more frequently. You can still make larger batches of favorite dishes, splitting them up into individual servings that may be frozen and reheated. Other foods to try that will supply important nutrients include cheese, peanut butter or other nut butters, finely chopped eggs or meat, avocado, yogurt, diced fruit, and whole milk.

Incorporate softer options
During the summer when fruit is particularly appetizing, try mixing up some healthy smoothies. Summer can also be a great time for ice cream, frozen yogurt, and milkshakes. Make it more festive and fun by inviting family members over to make their own unique treats and enjoying them outdoors together.

Develop a schedule
As opposed to waiting until the person says they're hungry, set designated times every day and stick to a schedule for eating. It may take some experimentation to figure out the best schedule, but give the new routine time to work before adjusting. Ensure that the person's routine includes an adequate amount of physical activity and exercise as well, which helps to enhance appetite.

Modify foods and utensils accordingly
If self-feeding is challenging, there are a number of adaptive utensils to explore. You can also make eating easier by serving food that is cut into small, bite-size portions, as well as finger foods like sandwiches, fish sticks, string cheese, chicken tenders, etc.