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Diet and Nutrition

Nutrition and Older Adults

05/01/2005

Question:

My mother is in her 70s and has been losing weight. She says she`s not hungry. How can I encourage her to eat more?

Answer:

It's not unusual to lose our appetite as we age. Most of us lose something of our senses of taste and smell as we get older, which can reduce the enjoyment we often get from food. Also, sometimes older people find themselves living alone for the first time in their lives. Since so much of our pleasure from food and mealtimes has a social aspect, it can be easy to skip meals when alone.

Still, don't write this off as just "old age" setting in. An inadequate diet can trigger a poor appetite, as can a zinc deficiency. Be sure there's not a medical problem. Otherwise, you can help your mom by making sure she has plenty of nutritious food available and helping her keep as socially active as possible.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has some special recommendations for older adults to keep in mind:

This question originally appeared in Chow Line (5/8/05), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2005.

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Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University