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Older people warned 'weight loss is not normal part of ageing'

14 March 2017 08:05

36% of older people think it is fine to lose weight with age

36% of older people think it is fine to lose weight with age

Seniors who experience weight loss should not put it down to the normal ageing process, experts are warning.

According to a survey for the Malnutrition Task Force, millions of over-60s could be risking their health, wrongly assuming it is normal to lose weight as they age.

The poll found more than a third of older people (36%) think it is fine to experience weight loss with age, while three-quarters (75%) have never worried about themselves or another older person losing weight without trying.

Serious health consequences

The task force - made up of experts from health, social care and local government - warns unintentional weight loss could actually be a warning sign of malnutrition or a symptom of serious health conditions, such as liver disease, cancer or dementia.

Lesley Carter, lead for the Malnutrition Task Force, says obesity is a well-known serious health problem but those at the other end of the scale who don't eat enough are equally at risk of serious health consequences.

She said: "We wrongly assume that malnutrition and dehydration belongs to the past but the reality is that poor nutrition and hydration are often not recognised by older people, families or healthcare professionals.

"The risk of becoming undernourished increases significantly as people age and it is further complicated by the incorrect assumption within society that losing weight is a normal part of the ageing process, when it fact should actually raise alarm bells."

Over-65s planning trips abroad can take out seniors travel insurance for added peace of mind when travelling.

Know the signs

The research - which surveyed 855 people - suggests that one in 10 over-65s are suffering from, or at risk of, malnutrition, and may be ignoring the warning signs.

Ms Carter added: "Rings may fall off, dentures could become loose, or clothes too baggy. Some people may start to find it hard to stand or carry objects, making preparing meals more difficult, or some may just show a general lack of appetite.

"Even the need to tighten your belt can be a clear indication that a person is not eating enough."

The task force recommends that older people suffering from a loss of appetite eat smaller, more frequent meals and full fat food and drinks, such as milk, cheeses and butter.