Senior Health

12/17/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Everyone wants to see their older parents and loved ones remain healthy and fit as they age. And some weight loss is a standard part of aging as both muscle mass, and appetites shrink. However, rapid and sudden weight loss in seniors is not normal; when an older adult loses five percent of their weight in one month or ten percent over six months, this is cause for concern.

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The health consequences of sudden weight loss in seniors include fatigue, a higher risk of falls, infections, cognitive issues, and the inability to perform daily living activities. Adult children and caregivers must understand that weight loss in an older person could signify a serious underlying health problem.

Here are some of the causes of sudden weight loss in seniors.

Social Isolation and Depression

As older adults become less mobile, both through aging and during a pandemic, they begin to stay at home by themselves. Their social activities and community shrink as their spouse and friends pass away. Isolation can lead to depression, and as it does, seniors may often lose their appetites.

Other signs of depression in older adults might include:

  • A noticeable lack of energy
  • Sad moods that persist
  • Frequent crying
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Trouble making decisions

A doctor may recommend an antidepressant medication, talk therapy, or simply engaging in more activities. Exercise can also fend off depression, so a senior workout class or regular walks may be all it takes to return to a normal appetite.


Unexpected weight loss in seniors may be a sign of cancer. Since early detection results in more favorable outcomes, the quicker someone gets checked and treated, the better the chance they will recover and survive.

Ensure your elderly loved ones are being screened regularly for the following common cancers: colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and lung cancer.


Weight loss in older adults can be a side effect of some medications. While taking multiple medications has been linked to anorexia in seniors, the more common side effects include nausea, altered taste or smell, dry mouth, and vomiting ­– all of which can contribute to weight loss.

Unable to Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Performing ADLs can become a challenge as people age. As mobility decreases, grocery shopping requires more planning and effort, and it becomes harder to purchase and prepare healthful foods. As a result, it’s increasingly difficult for seniors to maintain a healthy weight.

Another issue arises when older adults struggle to feed themselves. Perhaps they don’t have the energy to cook or are reluctant to use the stove. Weight loss from an inability to feed oneself might be a sign that it’s time for an assisted living facility or help from an in-home caregiver.

If possible, you might consider grocery shopping for your loved one. They would then have convenient foods in stock, such as yogurt, cheese sticks, fruits, meal replacement shakes, and nut butter that are ready to eat. You could also simplify meal planning for them by preparing meals and storing them in containers to be reheated safely in a microwave.


Another cause for unexpected weight loss in seniors could be unmanaged diabetes. If your loved one is not using the proper amount of insulin, there will not be enough sugar in the body’s cells, and it will burn its tissues as fuel. When an older adult is not taking diabetes medication as prescribed, consider hiring home care.

Weight loss may be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, and low energy levels.


As Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia progress, you may start to see problems with appetite decline along with difficulties with mobility, confusion, memory, and suspicion—all resulting in weight loss.

This list of reasons for unexpected weight loss in seniors is not exhaustive. There could be others. The most important step you can take on behalf of an older loved one is getting them the medical, psychological, or lifestyle care they require. Doing this will give them the best chance to recover from potentially unhealthy weight loss.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff