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Senior Health - The Elderly and Anorexia: A Scary Reality

Mar 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of San Marcos

Perhaps the most common eating disorder in seniors is anorexia. If you’re worried about your senior’s nutrition, read on to learn about their risk for this condition:

80% of Anorexia Deaths Are Seniors

As it turns out, seniors comprise almost 80% of deaths caused by anorexia. This is because this eating disorder affects seniors’ weaker bodies more intensely than younger ones, causing or progressing illnesses and conditions such as organ disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and so forth.

Additionally, seniors also get anorexia due to issues with their body image. In a study of about 1,000 senior women (aged 65 to 70), it was found that 60% of them were not satisfied with their bodies, and 80% of them controlled their weight in some way.

In another study, 70% of women over 50 were found trying to lose weight, and 13% already showed signs of an eating disorder.


Aging comes with many changes, and any one of them can be a catalyst for an eating disorder.

One of these changes is depression. Children moving away, retiring and making less money (and perhaps being bored), and an overall sense of feeling older and frailer can all contribute to depression. An eating disorder can come as a natural consequence of that.

Unfortunately, depression is very overlooked in seniors – it’s assumed the elderly are just tired all of the time, or it’s “just because they’re getting older.” It could be much more than that, and treating the depression may actually help to treat the eating disorder.

No Desire to Eat

Despite the similarities of anorexia in seniors compared to younger folks, perhaps the most common way seniors develop this condition is through a lack of desire to eat.

To make it clear, this is not the same way we understand the stereotype of anorexia. Seniors who lose their drive to eat, for a number of reasons, are clinically anorexic – it’s not a conscious choice they make, but it’s still anorexia.

The reasons the elderly lose their desire to eat can be physical, psychological, or both.

Medications are a huge factor. Negative side effects, such as gastrointestinal issues or digestive problems, can make eating difficult and painful for seniors. Some prescription drugs also lead to poor absorption of important nutrients, also leading to malnutrition in the patients that take them.

Dental issues are another leading factor. Bad teeth or poor fitting denture can make eating burdensome, and people with these issues may actually have a decreased appetite because of that.

And while it is true that seniors need fewer calories than younger folks, they still need nutrients. Yet, less physical activity and a slower metabolism can lead seniors to eating once or twice and then not feeling hungry for the rest of the day, causing them to not eat enough.

Certain conditions like dementia, which directly affects the brain and many bodily functions, can also play a role in decreased appetite. Taking care of the underlying medical issues may help to decrease anorexic behaviors.

If you are concerned about you or your seniors’ eating habits or lack of appetite, talk to their doctor immediately to help pinpoint the problem and begin treatment.

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