Interest in food is about how we socialize around it. It is influenced by what we can taste and smell and certain medications can influence those senses. Are you noticing a decrease in your appetite? If so, there can be many reasons for it.
Drinking lots of fluid before eating can fill you up very fast, so try to keep your intake to a minimum when you know mealtimes are approaching. However dehydration can also cause a lack of hunger so make sure to get at least 4-8 glasses of fluids a day. The most important thing to remember is to not drink a large glass of fluid right before eating (say 20 minutes).
In their mid 60’s to 70’s, metabolic changes occur in seniors that can make their appetite lessen due to natural changes. As people get older, they tend to move less and muscle mass decreases so they burn fewer calories. Hormonal changes such as an senior’s response to the hunger regulatory hormones ghrelin and cholecystokin may cause a decrease in their appetite.
Of course there may be some other things that can cause a wavering appetite as well, such as:
Lack of exercise- getting enough movement throughout the day can build up a healthy appetite.
Lack of routine- eating at the same time each day for all 3 meals can help trick your body into knowing it’s time to eat (even if you don’t fell hungry).
Inability to prepare meals- this can be due to medical conditions, finances or simply lack of interest in eating.
Loss of taste-our taste buds become less able to detect flavours as we age.
Sensitivity to smells- can be developed over time making the person feel nauseated and unable to eat
Meal times are unpleasant- when disagreements about their eating habits occur during mealtimes, seniors can associate food with unpleasant thoughts.
Difficulty chewing/swallowing- this can happen for a variety of reasons such as normal aging, dental problems, medications, surgery and health conditions.
Depression/loneliness- these can cause a loss of appetite or not wanting to eat alone.
Loss of control- when a senior is dependent on someone else for everything in their life, they can feel like they have lost control over how they want to live their life, even not being able to decide what to eat, may make them not hungry.
Certain medical conditions can affect your appetite such as:
Alzheimer’s can create a lot of problems with cooking and eating.
If loss of appetite occurs after a major life change such as a health scare, relocation or loss of a loved one, it might be temporary and not due to age related bodily changes.
The major thing to consider is if you or your loved one’s appetite is normal or due to a serious issue. If there are signs of malnutrition, then it may be time to call a doctor because eating less as a senior can put you at an increased risk of muscle loss and falls. So make sure you are getting a variety of foods and a source of protein at each meal. Good sources of protein can include chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, peanut butter, beans and nuts).
Here are some ways to help improve your appetite and make the most out of meal times. If you’re not eating a lot, try smaller, more frequent meals. Choose foods that are moist and easy to chew. Add herbs and spices for flavour instead of salt. For those seniors on a budget, try using high protein skim milk powder to enrich soups, oatmeal, muffins and puddings.
If cooking for yourself seems daunting why not try it when you are on less medications or feel better? Cooking large batches and freezing them is always a great idea. Try eating with a friend or relative if you can. If not, adding flowers, nice music or a placemat can create an environment which may help you eat better.
Make sure to eat at the same times each day if you can as this will help you r body get used to a schedule of when to be hungry.
If you have a senior in your life that is not eating well, then you can help by taking them grocery shopping , preparing meals with them or even taking some of your meal over to visit with them.