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Whet Seniors’ Appetites by Making Mealtimes Fun

Senior woman smiling while caregiver makes food.
Seniors can lose their interest in eating for a variety of reasons such as illness and depression.

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It’s no secret that companionship is considered the most important ingredient for dinner-table success. And as far as food goes, variety is the spice of life.

Q. My 80-year-old mother, who lives alone, just had a physical and is in good health for her age. I notice that she eats well during holiday dinners and on special occasions. However, she seems to have lost her interest in cooking and eating everyday meals. What can I do to make mealtimes more interesting and fun?

Seniors can lose their interest in eating for a variety of reasons such as illness and depression. It sounds as if your mother is in good health and she seems to perk up during family dinners and holidays.

Have you considered that loneliness might be an issue for your mom? Two of five seniors who live alone (44 percent) have at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health. According to Home Instead® network research, the most common of these warning signs and their incidence rates are:

  • Eating alone most of the time (76 percent)
  • Taking three or more different medications a day (71 percent)
  • Eating few fruits, vegetables or milk products (46 percent)
  • Having an illness/condition that prompted a change in diet (31 percent)
  • Not always being physically able to shop, cook or feed themselves (25 percent)

Furthermore, the research confirms the value of mealtimes. An overwhelming majority of seniors (85 percent) say that having someone to share their meals makes those times more satisfying for them. In addition, nearly one-half (48 percent) say their mealtimes are more satisfying if they have someone prepare their meals for them.

Why not check out the resources of the Home Instead network’s Craving Companionship program at The program offers family caregivers tips and practical advice to encourage companionship and easy healthy meals.

Craving Companionship is geared to helping families support a nutritiously vulnerable population like your mom—older adults who live alone. In the United States, approximately 40 percent of the population age 75 and older—6.7 million people—lives alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If your senior needs help making mealtimes special and you can’t be there on a daily basis to enhance their mealtimes, consider hiring a companion or professional caregiver from the local Home Instead® office. A Home Instead CAREGiverSM can do much to make mealtimes more enjoyable for older individuals.

Last revised: September 22, 2011

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