Lack of appetite is a major problem faced by elderly people and the condition is more prevalent among men than women.
Fewer calories needed
The elderly suffer from appetite loss owing to several reasons. One among them is the change that the body undergoes as one ages. Elderly people may not require as many calories as youngsters as they rarely engage in tasks that need physical exertion like the latter. As a result, the metabolic mechanism of senior citizens gradually slows down.
Another cause for appetite loss is a fall in the number of taste buds on the tongue as a person advances in age. When there are fewer taste buds, the ability to enjoy good taste comes down and could lead to a lack of appetite.
Another problem confronting many senior citizens is loss of teeth which deprives them of the capacity to chew many kinds of food items. This would force them to avoid several of their favourite dishes and could lead to appetite loss.
Changes in the alimentary canal
As a person grows from a youth to an elderly person, a number of changes are witnessed in the alimentary canal. For instance, its elasticity could come down, which is also a reason for appetite loss.
Levels of the male hormone testosterone also fall drastically during advanced age. This is one more cause of lack of hunger.
In some cases, elderly people lose their life partners and lead solitary lives. Such people may engage in cooking for themselves, which could result in boredom and appetite loss.
Psychological issues, other illnesses
It is often seen that depression and other psychological conditions, use of certain drugs, acidity, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), peptic ulcer and cancer in the esophagus and stomach also lead to lack of appetite.
Seek medical help
In the event of weight loss, thinning of the body, anemia and black stools being witnessed along with appetite loss, meet a doctor and check whether you are suffering from some other disease.
(The author is Professor, Department of Medicine, Govt. TD Medical College, Alappuzha)