Some studies have shown that senior adults who are overweight or obese are more likely to require nursing home care.  This may happen because:

  • Being overweight can cause or exacerbate symptoms of medical conditions like type-two diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease in seniors.
  • Obese seniors may develop respiratory problems as obesity causes the lungs to decrease in size.
  • Seniors who struggle with obesity, especially seniors aged 60-75, have higher rates of depression.
  • As adults age, they lose about 20% of the dermal thickness of their skin, which can make it much easier for seniors who are overweight or obese to develop pressure sores.

These and other factors may help explain why the risk of death from a weight-related disease increases as people get older. With as many as 70 percent of adults over age 60 obese or overweight, it is important to consider ways to maintain or reduce weight to avoid developing or worsening medical conditions and improve overall quality of life.

Are the reasons for weight gain the same for seniors as they are for everyone else?

Seniors tend to gain weight for different reasons and in different ways, although the basic concepts for managing weight remain the same.As seniors age, fat mass increases as muscle mass decreases. High fat mass has been shown to result in decreased physical function, higher risk of disability and limitations on mobility. In spite of decreased mobility and being less active, seniors tend to continue the eating patterns of their youth.  If adjustments are not made to diet to take into account decreased physical activity, seniors will tend to gain weight.

Changes in hormones and metabolism occur as people get older which can result in increased fat mass. It is believed thyroid hormone responsiveness decreases with age. Since the thyroid is primarily responsible for regulating metabolism, a decrease in responsiveness can very directly impact weight. Another change in hormones which occurs as people age involves a protein hormone called leptin, which regulates energy levels. Additionally, as people get older, their digestive system becomes less efficient which means that less food calories are burned off as energy, and more are stored as fat.

Genetics and environment also play a role in senior obesity and thus individual seniors will be impacted differently by each of these factors.  In genetics, certain genotypes are believed to produce a different sensitivity to changes in body fat after overeating. In terms of environment, not all seniors have access to fitness centers that offer specialized exercise and weight programs designed for seniors.  Similarly, not all seniors will have safe places to walk or bike that are readily accessible.

One factor seniors do have control over is how much they eat out. A societal lifestyle change has occurred and people are eating out more and more.  This trend has affected seniors as well. Studies have shown that when eating out, people consume more food and more foods that are higher in fat. Cooking at home tends to lead to making healthier food choices and consuming less.

How can seniors maintain a healthy weight?

The good news is that there are many factors seniors do have control over in maintaining or returning to a healthy weight.

Develop a community: Finding others who want to have a healthy lifestyle and developing a community of mutual support can help seniors maintain a healthy weight.

Keep moving: Stretching, aerobics and strengthening excises adapted to ability and done routinely can preserve muscle and bone mass in seniors, which can help in the struggle against weight gain.  Even those who are very old or frail can avoid obesity and related illnesses by engaging in appropriate physical activities. If one long 30-minute session is too strenuous, seniors can benefit just as much from three 10-minute sessions spread throughout the day.

Sleep: Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain because hormone changes make the sleep-deprived individual crave more food and feel less full. Particularly, a lack of sufficient sleep makes the body crave high-energy foods full of sugar and salt.  Getting enough sleep can therefore help the senior make healthier food choices.

Evaluate medications: Talking to health care providers about the effects of prescription drugs on weight gain may help identify ways to address or reduce their impact.

Eat protein: Protein is necessary for healthy muscle development.  If eating meat is difficult, other sources of protein like yogurt or eggs also make good choices.

Eat at home: Eating at home helps avoid the large portions and high-fat foods that are found in restaurants.

Determine a senior-appropriate weight management plan: Weight management strategies that worked for a senior in his or her youth may be unhelpful or even dangerous in older adulthood. A dietician or doctor can recommend a Senior Home Health Care partner who can also help with a weight management plan that will be safe and effective.

Home Health Care – Getting help form a home health care agency can make big difference in the health and well-being of a senior.

Reliant Home Health serves the following cities of Texas with home health care:

Addison, Aledo, Allen, Anna, Argyle, Arlington, Aubrey, Azle, Bailey, Balch Springs, Bedford, Bells, Blue Ridge, Bonham, Burleson, Caddo Mills, Campbell, Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Celeste, Celina, Colleyville, Collinsville, Commerce, Copeville, Coppell, Crowley, Dallas, Decatur, Denison, Denton, Desoto, Dodd City, Duncanville, Ector, Era, Euless, Farmersville, Ferris, Flower Mound, Forestburg, Fort Worth, Frisco, Gainesville, Garland, Gober, Gordonville, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Greenville, Gunter, Haltom City, Haslet, Honey Grove, Howe, Hurst, Hutchins, Irving, Ivanhoe, Josephine, Justin, Keller, Kennedale, Klondike, Krum, Ladonia, Lake Dallas, Lancaster, Lavon, Leonard, Lewisville, Lindsay, Little Elm, Lone Oak, Mansfield, Mckinney, Melissa, Merit, Mesquite, Muenster, Myra, Naval Air Station, Nevada, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pecan Gap, Pilot Point, Plano, Ponder, Pottsboro, Princeton, Prosper, Quinlan, Randolph, Ravenna, Red Oak, Rhome, Richardson, Roanoke, Rosston, Rowlett, Royse City, Sachse, Sadler, Saint Jo, Sanger, Savoy, Seagoville, Sherman, Southlake, Southmayd, Sunnyvale, Telephone, Terrell, The Colony, Tioga, Tom Bean, Trenton, Valley View, Van Alstyne, Westminster, Weston, Whitesboro, Whitewright, Wills Point, Wilmer, Windom, Wolfe City, & Wylie, Texas