Malnutrition and Older Americans  CHEF.gif (12673 bytes)

"One out of four older Americans suffer from poor nutrition"

Studies have shown that older adults at nutritional risk tend to make more visits to physicians, hospitals and emergency rooms.  Malnourished patients have hospital stays nearly twice as long as those of well-nourished patients, and costs of their stays are $2,000 to $10,000 higher.  Malnourished older patients are readmitted to hospitals more frequently than those who are well-nourished.

For older Americans, malnutrition can lead to lost weight and strength, lessened immunity to disease, confusion and disorientation.  Malnutrition exacerbates frailty and debilitation, causing families and loved ones greater worry and concern, as well as more time and energy spent in caregiving.

The reasons older people may eat too little food can be as simple as too little money or as complex as disease, too many medications and too dependent on others.  Several important factors contributing to inadequate nutritional intake among older people can be cited.

  • Poverty contributes significantly to malnutrition among older people.  As  health care, medication and utility costs increase, many older Americans cut  back on their food budget.

  • Many older people, especially the oldest and the poorest, have disabilities or  functional impairments and are unable to shop for groceries or cook for themselves.      

  • Over 80 percent of those 65 and older suffer from chronic diseases and conditions, many of which are associated with malnutrition.

  • Older adults take more medications than any other age group.  Medications can cause loss of appetite, reduced taste and smell, painful swallowing, nausea  and vomiting, and can affect the absorption and use of nutrients.

  • Nearly half of the nation's low-income elders have lost all of their natural teeth.  Problems with chewing and swallowing have definitely been linked to malnutrition.

Source:  The issue paper, Food and Nutrition for Life:  Malnutrition and Older Americans