Do you by any chance, feel a lack of appetite or have started eating less as you age? If yes, there is no need to worry as this is a common problem associated with aging, with the aging population across the world. However, that does not mean that it is ok or that you should ignore it. This problem should be discussed with your family and friends, and a doctor should be consulted if necessary. The underlying causes could be many, and a doctor may be able to pinpoint the exact reason for your lack of appetite and may be able to help you.
The common causes
One of the most common reasons of this condition could be medical or some medication that you are taking. It has been observed that aged people with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Thyroid issues, mouth, gum or teeth issues, any terminal diseases like cancer, etc. usually do start eating less. So, the first thing to do would be to get necessary checkups done to ensure that no medical condition exists.
Secondly, certain medications can cause loss of appetite, or a dry mouth or leave a metallic taste in the mouth. This usually happens during certain treatments like chemotherapy, etc. There are various ways to address the same; however, if it is any of your regular medication that is the issue, the doctor may be able to prescribe something different in place to help you overcome the problem.
Issues like age-related difficulty in swallowing, vision or smell issues, motor issues, dentures, etc. are other medical factors that contribute to this condition.
A few of the other reasons that can contribute to a lack of appetite in aging people are:
1. Social factors – Aged people who live alone, generally may tend to get into a depression or a lack of interest in living and eating.
2. Functional factors – An inability to prepare the meals in time, could be another factor ultimately leading to a lack of appetite. They get into the habit of eating less, not eating on time, cooking once a day and eating little across the day, etc.
3. Lack of exercise – If the people do not exercise regularly and are inactive, they can also across a period, become anorexic and start eating less.
4. Seasonal issues – Summer and dehydration due to drinking less water can also be another factor causing a lack of appetite. In summer, most people, not just the elderly, generally feel like drinking more liquids and feel a general lack of appetite.
5. Taste bud issues – As mentioned above, lack of appetite is an aging issue, and an inability to detect the various tastes of the food being eaten can also be big put-off for people.
6. Lack of a routine – Few aged people, especially those living alone, may lack a routine for their daily schedule. Hence, they may not get into the habit of eating on time. For those living with a family, or have caretakers around, this may not be an issue, as there will be others having meals on time and they can join in.
7. Unpleasant atmosphere – At times, even when old people are living with family, if there are constant arguments and disagreements happening in the family, especially at the lunch or dinner table, the older people may tend to skip meals, to avoid the unpleasantness.
How to address the issue?
It is important to eat a well-balanced meal and on time, especially for the aging population, as they need it to counter the aging issues and changes in the body. Hence, it is better to acknowledge the issue and discuss it out with the people around or the doctor, if there is no one else around. However, here are a few tips and tricks that can be experimented with to eat on time and combat the lack of appetite.
- For starters, it is better to create a routine, of three meals a day, and stick to it and one may use some creativity while at it. A variety in the meals, to ensure diversity as well as a certainty of having essential Vitamins, nutrients, proteins, etc. is a good start. Eating healthy and on time and as required, can help the seniors stay healthy and keep their appetite up to a great extent.
- As much as possible, try to eat with others in the house, so that there is a necessity of eating, and you get the company to eat the meal pleasantly.
- Please ensure proper mouth hygiene, to make sure that there are teeth, gum or mouth issues that stop you from eating. Brushing twice a day and rinsing after every meal, if required, with a mouthwash is a good habit. This can also help in keeping the dry mouth issue away.
- For seniors, who have difficulty in swallowing, softer food which can be of soup consistency should be prepared. This can encourage them to eat, as otherwise they may find meal times as a nightmare and will avoid the same.
- Eat smaller quantities and if required a couple of times a day, if that is what makes you comfortable. As we age, eating heavy meals can be a big issue. Hence, change eating habits.
- Have small and healthy snacks in between meals to keep your hunger away.