Loss of Appetite: Causes & Solutions for Seniors

While loss of appetite is common every now and then, long-term appetite changes can be worrisome. Discover what causes loss of appetite and solutions to try!

Loss of appetite has many causes. Luckily, many loss of appetite treatments can be tried in the comfort of home. When looking for the “right” treatment for loss of appetite in the elderly, it’s important to find the solution that works for you. 

Keep reading to find out what causes loss of appetite, plus the top loss of appetite treatments. 

What Causes Loss Of Appetite?

Loss of appetite can seem harmless at first. However, decreased appetite may be a symptom of something more startling, such as: 

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Eating disorders (i.e. anorexia nervosa)
  • Kidney disease

Lack of appetite isn’t always attributed to pain and certain health conditions. Appetites can change for many reasons, but these are the most common: 

  • Changes in sensations (i.e. taste, smell)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Digestive difficulties (i.e. constipation)
  • Disability
  • Immobility
  • Inactivity
  • Medication side effects (i.e. appetite stimulants or suppressants)
  • Poor mental health (i.e. depression, isolation) 

Changes in appetite can be dangerous, as they are linked to the potential for malnutrition in older adults. Some older adults simply forget to eat, some refuse to eat, and others just find it less enjoyable than they used to. Either way, challenges with appetite can make it difficult to recognize when the “right” time to eat is. 

Treatments for Loss of Appetite in the Elderly

Luckily, there are many treatments you can try for loss of appetite today. Here are the top five that health professionals suggest. 

Meet with a Dietitian

A dietitian is a healthcare professional and trained diet expert that can help you find solutions for your struggles with eating. Beyond dealing with appetite, dietitians can find the root cause that is bothering you. Studies have shown that the questionnaires they use to address nutritional risk factors are a crucial intervention in improving quality of life. 

For example, if you are dealing with chewing difficulties or a lack of mobility, dietitians can help connect you with other professionals or agencies that can help you get the resources you need. They can also give you additional tips for dealing with changes in appetite, as well as alternative methods for preparing food to make it more palatable. 

Eat Around the Same Time Each Day 

Having a solid eating routine can be as important as having a supportive sleep routine. Structure can help train your body to recognize when it is time to eat. At the very least, strive to have a structured interval between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

Nutrient-dense foods offer an amazing level of nutrients relative to their calorie content. Many fruits and vegetables are low-calorie but contain many needed nutrients. 

Additionally,  protein, healthy fats, and fiber offer essential nutrients even if you don’t feel like eating much). For example, full-fat dairy provides protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients. Foods like peanut butter are also packed with protein (and palatable) without being high in volume.

Eat Frequent, Small Meals

Eating large meals might seem overwhelming when appetite is low for whatever reason. Instead of rationing out large servings, focus on smaller and more frequent meals. 

While eating any food is better than going without, try making sure smaller meals and snacks at least offer protein. As mentioned above, focus on nutrient-dense foods overall to help ensure nutrient needs are being met even when appetite is low. 

Make Meals Social 

Mealtimes can be a great time to catch up while also eating enough calories. Try sharing your meal with members of your community. This can include: 

  • Churches 
  • Community centers
  • Friends 
  • Family 
  • Senior centers

Try Something New with Food

Infusing your plate with something new can make a meal more exciting! From changing up your actual plates and using more decorative dishes to exploring new spices or seasonings, there are so many ways to change up your typical menu of meals. Even simply adding a new color or food or a new flavor combination can make a big difference!

The Last Word On Loss Of Appetite

Losing your desire to eat? Commit to trying at least one of these at-home tips today! While the cause of your loss of appetite may seem complex, the solutions to improve your appetite are often simple and easy to integrate into your existing routine. 


Clegg ME, Williams EA. Optimizing nutrition in older people. Maturitas. 2018;112:34-38. 
Tek NA, Karaçil-Ermumcu. Determinants of Health Related Quality of Life in Home Dwelling Elderly Population: Appetite and Nutritional Status. J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(8):996-1002.

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