Senior Care and Weight Management

SeniorFor many reasons, some over the age of 65 struggle with gaining and maintaining a healthy body weight, similar to the challenge of losing weight for others. While it may seem like a good problem to have, it is actually extremely unhealthy and can be life threatening in some situations1.

Let’s hit on some important questions you might have about geriatrics and senior weight gain and, most importantly, how you can help if you care for a senior friend or family member.

Why do seniors have trouble gaining weight or maintaining a healthy weight?

According to SFGate’s article on geriatric care, “Tips on How to Gain Weight for Seniors & the Elderly,” there are many reasons why seniors struggle with maintaining a healthy weight1. Sometimes this is attributed to geriatric depression, which can develop as people get older and friends and spouses pass away or family members are not as prevalent in their lives and their daily care. Other geriatric medical conditions that require home health or house calls may call for prescription medication that causes nausea or loss of appetite. In addition, as friends and loved ones get older they may lose their sense of taste or smell, which causes them to lose motivation to eat1.

Why is this condition so dangerous for geriatric care?

The SFGate article cites that it is extremely dangerous if “body weight has dropped 4 or 5 percent in the last year, 1” as long as there have been no considerable alterations to you, your friend or loved one’s diet. Seniors that are underweight or struggle with maintaining a healthy weight can be more inclined to contract dangerous infections or considerable losses of muscle mass1. Especially in the case of the lost muscle, these situations can affect function for simple daily activities.

How do they gain healthy weight?

So, with all that said about the dangers of extreme weight loss in geriatric care, how do seniors gain weight? First of all, eating small meals that include nutrient dense foods on an average of five or six times a day are a great start. It is important to not go more than three or four hours. While high-fat, high-calorie meals may seem like a good idea, the best geriatric care professionals suggest “whole grains, low-or non-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins like poultry, seafood, lean meat cuts or beans and legumes. 1” In addition, drinks like juices and smoothies are another way to pack protein and good nutrition into meals1.

It may seem counterintuitive, but exercise is a fantastic way for geriatric patients, whether receiving care and therapy or not, to build muscle and maintain healthy weight. Strength training can build muscle and help develop a healthy appetite1.

Do you have any tips for geriatric care with weight gain and maintenance?

1Kerns, M. (2011) Tips on How to Gain Weight for Seniors & the Elderly. SFGate. Retrieved April 27, 2014 from