How to Stimulate Appetite in the Elderly

A reduced appetite is a natural part of aging and extremely common among the elderly, according to MedlinePlus. Because malnutrition is a major health concern for older adults, however, you may worry when your loved one experiences a decreased desire to eat. Proper nutrition is crucial for people of all age groups, senior citizens in particular. Encourage healthy eating habits in a variety of ways.

A senior woman sitting at a dining room table. (Image: Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Step 1

Help your loved one increase her social network so that she can eat with others as much as possible. Depression from loneliness and social isolation is a significant cause of appetite loss in the elderly, according to an article published in the journal "International Psychogeriatrics" in 2003. Encourage other family members to be involved in her life, and plan social meals involving friends and relatives. Talk to her about joining a local senior center if she lacks social relationships with other adults her age.

Step 2

Create a meal schedule that your loved one can follow, because he may just be forgetting to eat. The physiological drive to eat decreases with age, so he may not experience the same physical signals of hunger as he did at a younger age. Set and stick to specific meal times to help improve his eating habits. Encourage him to eat at the same times each day to create regularity.

Step 3

Take your loved one grocery shopping with a goal to experiment with new foods. Natural changes in taste and smell occur with age, and this can play a role in stimulating appetite and the enjoyment of eating. He may no longer desires the same foods as he used to, or the foods he used to eat may no longer taste appealing. Encourage him to be adventurous with food choices and keep track of the ones he enjoyed.

Step 4

Talk to your loved one's doctor about prescribing an appetite stimulant. Appetite loss can lead to unintentional weight loss and poor nutrition status, which increases her risk of illness and disease. If her health is at risk and other attempts to improve her appetite have failed, a prescription appetite stimulant may help.

Tip

Get your loved one to participate in activities that involve food, such as cooking classes, potlucks and bake sales.

Warning

Don't ignore appetite loss. It may be a sign of an underlying health issue.

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