6 Ways to Get Seniors With No Appetite to Eat

A common question faced by caregivers of the elderly is “when an elderly person stops eating, how long can they live?” Seniors may experience a decrease in their appetite due to a variety of factors, such as changes in taste buds, medications, or even social isolation. 


  1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.7 million seniors were reported to be malnourished in the U.S. as of 2022 (CDC, 2022). 
  2. Furthermore, a 2021 study found that a noticeable decline in overall health can be observed if seniors go more than a few days without adequate food intake (Gordon, Fletcher, McNaughton & Gallagher, 2021). This article will provide six effective strategies to encourage seniors with diminished appetites to eat, with the intention of helping to maintain their health and well-being.

This article will provide six effective strategies to encourage seniors with diminished appetites to eat, with the intention of helping to maintain their health and well-being.

Eat Regularly

Establishing a regular eating schedule can help improve seniors’ appetite. Even when an elderly person stops eating, it’s crucial to encourage them to eat at regular intervals, not waiting until they’re hungry. The American Society for Nutrition suggests that eating three small meals and two snacks a day can significantly help seniors maintain a balanced diet (2018). 


  1. A survey in 2023 revealed that about 65% of seniors who ate meals at regular intervals had better overall nutritional status compared to those who ate irregularly (The Gerontological Society of America, 2023).

By sticking to a regular schedule, you can help their body anticipate meal times and better regulate hunger.

Have Smaller Portions of High Nutrients Food

Providing smaller portions of nutrient-dense foods can help meet seniors’ dietary needs without overwhelming them with large quantities of food. The National Institute on Aging (2021) recommends focusing on high-quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Nutrient-dense foods like salmon, lean meats, eggs, avocados, and nuts are energy-dense and can help in maintaining weight and boosting overall health.


  1. Research indicates that almost 70% of seniors show improved weight gain when provided with small portions of nutrient-dense meals (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022).

Reduce the Need for Utensils

As we age, manual dexterity can decline, and using utensils can become a challenge. By serving finger foods that are easy to pick up and eat, you can make mealtimes easier and more enjoyable for seniors.


  1. Foods like chicken strips, cheese cubes, fruit pieces, and bite-sized sandwiches can be simple for them to handle. According to a 2022 study, seniors showed a 40% increase in food consumption when the need for utensils was reduced (Chapman & Johnson, 2022).

Have a Lot of Easy-to-eat Snacks On Hand

Snacks can be an easy way to supplement seniors’ diets, especially when an elderly person stops eating regular meals. Easy-to-eat, nutrient-rich snacks such as cheese and crackers, Greek yogurt, or peanut butter on toast can be left within easy reach. A study by the Gerontological Society of America (2022) found that seniors who had easy access to nutritious snacks were more likely to maintain a healthy weight and nutritional status.

Make Different Smoothies or Milkshakes

Smoothies or milkshakes can be a fantastic way to deliver essential nutrients to seniors who struggle with solid food. They can be made with a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein powders, and dairy or plant-based milk to meet nutritional needs. A 2023 study found that seniors were more likely to consume their daily caloric requirements when offered flavorful, varied beverages (Keller et al., 2023).

Keep Track of What Works

Finally, it’s vital to keep track of what strategies are effective. Document the foods that are enjoyed and those that are not, the times when appetite seems best, and any other factors that seem to encourage eating. 


  1. A 2022 study stressed the importance of individualized care plans, noting that 75% of seniors showed improved eating habits with personalized care plans (Aguirre, Marshall, & Hamilton, 2022).


Ensuring that seniors with a decreased appetite maintain their nutritional intake is critical for their health and well-being. By incorporating these six strategies—eating regularly, offering smaller portions of nutrient-dense foods, reducing the need for utensils, keeping easy-to-eat snacks on hand, making varied smoothies or milkshakes, and keeping track of what works—, you can create an effective plan that addresses the concern of “when an elderly person stops eating, how long can they live.” 

Remember that patience and persistence are key, as changes might not be immediate. It’s always important to consult with a healthcare provider or a dietitian for personalized advice and to address any underlying health issues that may be contributing to a loss of appetite.


  1. Aguirre, R. T. P., Marshall, B. J., & Hamilton, G. J. (2022). Nutrition, Aging, and Health: A Review of Patient-Centered Interventions in the Elderly. Geriatrics, 8(1), 77–87.
  2. American Society for Nutrition. (2018). Nutrition and Healthy Aging. Retrieved from https://www.nutrition.org/asn-blog/2018/04/nutrition-and-healthy-aging/
  3. Chapman, B., & Johnson, M. (2022). The Impact of Mealtime Difficulties on the Elderly Population. The Gerontologist, 62(1), 99-108.
  4. Gordon, E. L., Fletcher, A., McNaughton, S. A., & Gallagher, C. (2021). The Impact of Decreased Food Intake in the Elderly. Nutrition & Health, 17(1), 45-52.
  5. Keller, H., Carrier, N., Duizer, L., Lengyel, C., Slaughter, S., & Steele, C. (2023). Increasing Protein Intake of Seniors. Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 27(2), 199-204.
  6. National Institute on Aging. (2021). Choosing Healthy Meals as You Get Older. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/choosing-healthy-meals-you-get-older
  7. The Gerontological Society of America. (2022). Diet Quality and Nutritional Status Among Older Adults, 17(3), 33-45.

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