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Nutrition for Older Adults: Social and Emotional Changes and Nutrition

Social Changes

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.

Emotional Changes

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 use.

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.

Sources

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.

 

Janice Hermann

Extension Nutrition Specialist

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