Nutrition for Older Adults: Social and Emotional Changes and Nutrition
Loneliness is a common problem for many older adults. Retirement and loss of family
and friends can lead to loneliness.
Loneliness is not just related to living alone.
- Lack of frequent communication may be more important than being alone.
- Someone who lives with others, but does not have frequent communication, may be lonelier than someone who lives alone and has frequent communication.
Loneliness can affect food intake by causing:
- Loss of appetite.
- Decreased desire to cook and eat.
Loneliness can also lead to poor eating habits:
- Eating the same foods.
- Snacking instead of eating meals.
- Eating easily prepared foods.
Although not a problem for all, depression is a problem for many older adults.
- Loneliness, retirement, and loss of family and friends can cause depression.
- Some medicines and some nutrition deficiencies can also cause symptoms of depression.
Depression can also affect food intake by causing:
- Loss of appetite.
- Decreased desire to grocery shop, cook or even eat.
Tips if Social and Emotional Changes Affect Food Intake
- Ask friends or family over for meals.
- Ask friends and family to eat out.
- Senior meal sites provide a place to eat with others.
- Some medicines can cause depression. Check with your doctor about the medicines you
Tips for Caregivers if Social and Emotional and Changes Affect Food Intake
- Serve food so it looks pleasing. Food tastes better if it looks good to eat.
- Meals with a variety of food flavors, colors, temperatures and textures are more pleasing.
- Don’t serve the same foods day after day.
- Make the setting pleasant. Try colorful tablecloths, placemats or trays, music or a centerpiece.
- Have older adults help plan and prepare meals.
- Help older adults to get involved in other activities to increase feelings of worth.
- Watch for signs of loneliness and depression.
Whitney, E.N. & Rolfes, S.R. (2015). Understanding Nutrition, 14th ed., Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Belmont, CA.
Bernstein, M., & Munoz, N. (2016). Nutrition for the Older Adult, 2nd ed., Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA.
Brown, J.E. (2014) Nutrition through the Life Cycle, 5th ed., Cengage Learning, Stamford, CT.
Extension Nutrition Specialist