10 Reasons Why Seniors Lose Their Appetite

Health conditions that can cause loss of appetite and 10 reasons why someone wouldn’t want to eat

By Connie Chow, Founder at DailyCaring

Loss of appetite is common in seniors

Many older adults struggle during mealtimes or simply refuse to eat because they’ve lost their appetite.

This is an important issue to address because seniors need to eat well to stay as healthy and active as possible.

But how can you convince someone with no appetite to eat? And why do seniors lose their appetites in the first place?

To help you figure out why this happens, we explain what types of health conditions could cause a loss of appetite and share 10 reasons why someone wouldn’t want to eat.


First, rule out serious health conditions or medication side effects

If your older adult suddenly loses their appetite, it’s important to talk with their doctor. A check-up might be needed to rule out serious health conditions or medication side effects.

Some serious illnesses cause changes to taste and appetite, including:

Medication side effects like dry mouth or a metallic taste can change how food or water tastes, which can also cause a loss of appetite.


10 reasons for loss of appetite in seniors

If loss of appetite isn’t caused by a health or medication issue, here are 10 other reasons why someone might not want to eat.

1. Lack of exercise
Regular exercise and activity helps boost appetite. Sometimes, seniors need to work up an appetite before they can eat.


2. Dehydration
Being dehydrated can cause loss of appetite.

Many older adults don’t get enough fluids and become dehydrated more easily because of age-related changes or medications they’re taking.


3. Lack of routine
Getting into a daily routine where meals are eaten around the same time every day can help their body feel ready to eat at those times.


4. Inability to prepare meals
Seniors who live independently might not be eating because preparing their own meals has become too difficult.


5. Loss of taste
With age, many people’s taste buds become less able to detect flavors. Normal food might be bland and unappetizing to them.

6. Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or eating independently

If eating has become too difficult or unpleasant, many older adults simply don’t want to eat.

These problems can be caused by:


7. Sensitivity to smells
Sometimes people develop a sensitivity to the smell of certain foods that can make them feel nauseated or unable to eat.


8. Depression or loneliness
Depression affects 1 in 10 seniors and often causes loss of appetite.

Many older adults may also dislike mealtime because they have nobody to eat with and their loneliness gets intensified.


9. Loss of control
When older adults are dependent on others for everything, they’ve lost control over how they want to live their lives.

Sometimes, not being able to choose what to eat makes someone not want to eat at all.


10. Mealtimes are unpleasant
If mealtimes have become a time for disagreements or arguments about their eating, seniors could associate food with unpleasantness and avoid it.


Next Step  Try these 6 ways to encourage your older adult to eat more


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Author: Connie Chow, founder at DailyCaring, was a hands-on caregiver for her grandmother for 20 years – until grandma was 101 years old! Connie has an MBA from the University of Southern California and has been featured on major news outlets, including WJCL22 Savannah (ABC), KRON4 San Francisco, NBC10 Philadelphia, 23ABC Bakersfield, KAGS Texas (NBC), and KVAL13 Oregon (CBS). She has spoken at Institute on Aging, written for Sixty and Me, and been quoted in top publications, including U.S. News & World Report, HuffPost, and Society of Senior Advisors.


  • Reply November 27, 2023


    So where does one draw the line between not being as hungry as one once was and what is a healthy appetite? I do not need nor do I want to eat as much as I once did… but I do want to cut back on portion size and the number of meals…

    • Reply November 27, 2023


      Appetite and nutrition are unique to each person. The best person to make this assessment is your own physician.

  • Reply June 18, 2021

    Michael Bogan

    Yes I’m having a serious problem … Eating?
    I need Help.
    Thank you.

    • Reply June 18, 2021


      We strongly recommend that you see your doctor to find out if there are underlying health conditions that could be making it difficult for you to eat.

  • Reply May 5, 2021

    Martinez Stella

    My 86 year old mother has lost considerable weight in the last year or so. Test results were fine but she is suffering from severe constipation and she became scared to eat anything. She didn’t eat for two days and became very lethargic. I am looking for suggestions of what foods will help her.

    • Reply May 5, 2021


      We’re so sorry to hear about this situation. It’s good that her doctor hasn’t found any underlying health conditions that could be causing her weight loss.

      Helping to relieve her chronic constipation may help her to feel confident enough to eat. We’ve got suggestions for lifestyle changes that can help with constipation here – Constipation in Seniors: 6 Effective Home Remedies https://dailycaring.com/constipation-in-seniors-6-effective-home-remedies/

      It may be better not to make too many changes to her diet at once, gradual changes will be more comfortable for her body to adapt to.

      If the severe constipation persists, ask the doctor to do a more thorough exam to find the cause. There could be a medical issue that’s causing a problem.

  • Reply January 30, 2021


    Thank you. I have a upper denture now for five years and I don’t like it at all. I will get up in the morning and want to eat like a strawberry and even put one in my mouth and laugh as I realize I don’t have my denture in.

  • Reply September 16, 2020

    Elsa Collins

    I find this topic very educative. A big thank you!

    • Reply September 16, 2020


      You’re very welcome! So glad this is helpful.

  • Reply August 4, 2020

    Gail Dickens

    Thank you for this information. I now realise that it’s my dentures that have made me lose my joy in good. My life seems to have changed since I had these dentures. I don’t like them at all.

    • Reply August 4, 2020


      So glad this article is helpful! We hope your dentist can help make your dentures more comfortable to wear. Or, if they’re new, perhaps it will just take a little time to adjust to having them in your mouth.

  • Reply May 10, 2019

    Marva Bernard-Gordon

    I have found this article very informative. I can now try new ways to get my mother to eat

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