Managing Loss of Appetite in Seniors (Part 3): 9 Ways to Stimulate their Appetite

Are you offering your elderly loved one all the right foods, or even the wrong ones, but they are still refusing to eat? Are you concerned that they are wasting away from not eating or not eating enough? Have you tried everything to stimulate their appetite and nothing is helping?

We are here to help with Part 3 of Managing Loss of Appetite in Seniors!

Chances are your senior is not wasting away but you definitely have reason to be concerned. It can be unsettling when someone we love doesn’t or isn’t able to take proper care of themselves. We previously talked about assessing and narrowing down the reasons why a senior may have changed their eating habits in Part 1. By now, you have probably ruled out any medical issues with their doctor or dentist and tried some of the ideas for foods to offer your elderly loved one in Part 2. We know it has been a long journey but don’t give up now, we have some suggestions to help get your aging adult excited about eating again!

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Here are 9 ways to help your elderly loved one increase their appetite:

  1. Relieve the Discomforts that are Caused by Medications

Medications, although necessary, have some adverse side effects that can cause your senior to have a reduced appetite. Dry mouth, a strange or metallic taste or a reduced ability to taste and constipation are among the most common. These side effects can also be normal signs of aging.

  • Dry Mouth – ask your senior to brush their teeth, use an oral rinse or chew sugarless gum before their meals to help make chewing and swallowing more comfortable.
  • Strange/Metallic Taste – use plastic (or eco-friendly bamboo) cutlery instead of metal spoons and forks. Use fresh mint, sliced cucumbers, lemons or any other sliced fruit to enhance their water with flavors and nutrients (You can also use a flavoured water enhancer). Use different proteins like beans, dairy or tofu if meat enhances the strange or metallic taste.
  • Reduced/Bland Taste – try using different herbs and spices to keep things flavourful and interesting (use a little MORE to make the flavours stronger). Enhancing their water with fruit or vegetables can also stimulate their taste buds!
  • Constipation – increase their fiber and fluid intake as well as their physical activity to reduce the uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms of constipation.
  1. Treat Dehydration but Limit Fluids During Meals

To help boost your senior’s appetite, make sure they are getting plenty of liquids, especially water, throughout the day. During meals, a drink may be needed to help moisten food and to swallow safely but try to avoid fluids while eating to reduce the risk of feeling full before actually finishing the meal. It is best to limit fluids to half an hour before and after a meal!

  1. Create a Routine and Have a Regular Meal Schedule

If your elderly loved one does not already have a routine with meals being eaten at the same time every day, make one! The eating of meals on a regular schedule, trains our bodies and minds to be ready for food at that particular time.

  1. Serve Smaller Portions of High Nutrient Foods

A plate full of food could be overwhelming to a senior so its important to offer smaller portions of nutrient-rich, high protein foods. It’s even better to offer smaller meals more often during the day, rather than the traditional 3 large meals per day, try serving 5 or maybe 6 smaller meals instead.

  1. Finger Foods, Drinkable Meals and Snacking

Use finger foods for meal time to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for your aging adult, especially if utensils have become hard or impossible to use. If chewing has become an issue, try serving drinkable meals such as healthy milkshakes and smoothies or nutritious soups. Pureeing or mincing meals is also an option but not typically as appetizing! Snacking should always be encouraged, just make sure there is healthy nutritious snacks on hand!

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  1. Increase Physical Activity

There is no doubt that a little exercise will help your elderly loved one increase their appetite! Find a type of senior safe exercise that works for them and have them engage in physical activity regularly to increase their energy needs and therefore increasing their hunger.

  1. Encourage Social Meals

Joining others for a meal can stimulate an elderly loved one’s appetite. Make plans for them to eat with you or another friend or relative once or twice a week. Also, try reaching out to some local organizations that offer social meals for seniors such as community or seniors centers or churches.

  1. Make Mealtime an Experience and Let Them Choose

Change the setting of where your senior eats by using their favourite table cloth or their best china, lighting a candle or two and maybe putting on some soft music. Join them, if you can, with some pleasant conversation! Involve your aging adult in meal planning, give them choices and LET THEM CHOOSE. It will be easier to boost their appetite if they are being offered the foods they love!

  1. Offer Alcohol or an Appetite Stimulant

A safe way to stimulate a senior’s appetite is with a small amount of beer or wine before a meal. If appetite suppression has become severe, you may want to consider talking to their doctor about an appetite stimulant prescription.

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Always talk to your doctor about your concerns, they may have more solutions to help increase your elderly love one’s appetite.

Did any of these suggestions work of you? Let us know! If you found this series helpful and informative, please feel free to comment or share it amongst your peers. Follow our blog and our social media for more informative articles, updates on our services, community building and to connect with us! FaceBook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn

Surrey-North Delta Meals on Wheels has been serving the areas of Surrey, North Delta and Cloverdale since 1970. We deliver fresh, nutritious meals to those who are unable to prepare adequate meals for themselves. To find out more about us or to donate to our charity, please visit

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