Tricks to Stimulate Appetite in the Elderly: Feeding Your Aging Parents & What To do If they won’t Eat

It’s very common for seniors to lose their appetite. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Eating is very essential to every human being regardless of their age and lifestyle. But there are instances where some seniors won’t eat at all. This situation could be caused by different reasons.

There are the obvious reasons such as medication side effects, health problems, or dental issues. Then there are other reasons like reduction in their metabolic rate and changes taste and smell of the food.

Whatever the reason behind their lost appetite, there are different methods that you can use to stimulate their appetite. Please read on.

Communicate Well and Maintain Eye Contact While Eating

Your loved ones need to feel very comfortable in order to have some appetite. Make sure to sit directly in front of your loved one during meal times and maintain eye contact. You’ll need to start the eating to give them time to follow your lead. This might take a while, but you should remain patient.

You could try smiling at them and wait for them to smile back as you always try to lead by example to make them comfortable. Effective communication with your loved one during this process is very key. There are professionals who are experienced in dealing with such situations who can help to effectively communicate with your loved ones and win them to eat. For instance, you can learn more here.

Increase the Density of the Nutrients

One of the main reasons your old parents could refuse to eat at all is the large amount of food in front of them. Therefore, you should focus on serving smaller portions instead of big plates. You can opt for several small meals, say 4-5, instead of the normal 3 large meals per day. These small servings should be rich in nutrients. You can serve them with food containing olive oil, finely chopped cheese, eggs, and meat, soft cheeses, and nut butter.

If you’ll be leaving your parents alone for some time, cook the food in larger batches and put them in small containers for convenience. This way, your loved ones could eat the food any time they want to.

Develop A Regular Eating Schedule

Human bodies normally thrive off regularity, and so does your loved ones’ signals of thirst and hunger. This means that their appetite did change because of a shift from their usual patterns.

Therefore, you’ll need to take time to try to restore their hunger signals. Start slow, add a small snack during the usual meal times and within some period of time, their body will have once again adapted to the regular meal schedules.

Have A Variety of Easy-to-Eat Snacks

The reason your loved ones could be reluctant to eat could be because you’re only serving them full meals. Some seniors usually prefer the idea of eating snacks throughout the day. Because of this reason, ensure to have a lot of healthy and easy-to-eat snacks at home.

If they have no health issues, taking some enough calories will do them good. Give them snacks such as whole chocolate milk, cheese, full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, crackers, peanut butter, and fruits.

Check the Plate Color

Some studies have shown that the color of the plate matters for patients with dementia. For instance, the Boston University study found that patients eating from white plates consumed 25% less food than those eating from red plates.

This could be the reason why your loved ones would not eat at all. They could be having trouble distinguishing between colors. Using color can help stimulate their interest in eating their meals.

The different colors will help them to clearly distinguish the contrast between the food color and plate color and hence eating the food.  

Stop Using Utensils

Probably you can relate to the frustration people – especially adults – normally feel when they’re unable to use the knife or spoon properly. This frustration can make old parents not want to eat at all, especially if they’re being served by some stranger.

Therefore, in order to encourage them to eat more, you need to maximize on serving foods that can be taken without any utensils.

Concentrate on meals like meatballs, steamed veggies, cucumber pieces, or chicken strips.

Embrace Social Meals

One of the major enemies of appetite is the prospect of eating alone. And this is no different with your old parents.

If they’ve been alone, more so during the meal times, there’s a high probability this led to their lack of appetite. Social interaction is very essential to boosting the activeness and appetite of your loved ones. If the rest of the family are not around during most of these times, you should check out other meal options at community centers, churches, senior centers, and with other family members and friends once in a while.

You may also want to consider cohousing options to maximize the chances for social interactions and a fostering of community.

Keep Track of What Works

Taking notes is very important for future reference.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to repeat the same mistake of giving your old parents the food they do not enjoy. By knowing what they don’t like or what upsets their stomach, you can try as much as possible not to include them in their diet the next time. Perhaps there could be specific times of the day when they have a better appetite and are more willing to eat.

Ensure to take note of this also to enable you to determine what’s best for your loved ones. These notes will also be useful if, for some reason, you’ll not be around to take care of your parents.

Consider Using an Appetite Stimulant

You may have tried to encourage your loved ones to eat using the above methods to no avail. Well, there could be another way that you could try out, appetite stimulants.

A good number of seniors have shown impressive responses in their appetite after using the stimulants over the past years. You could also advise your loved ones to try them out and observe if it helps. However, you’ll need to consult your doctor first to examine if it will be safe and effective before proceeding. Avoid over the counter medications as much as possible.


While eating meals is very important to your loved ones, patience is as well a very key factor when your aging parents won’t eat at all. It’s very common for seniors to lose their appetite. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t be frustrated.

Try these methods while showing them love. Try to put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

A qualified and certified caretaker is also trained on how best to make your loved one start eating again.

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