Obesity in Seniors

Obesity in Seniors: How Does Aging Affect Weight?

In the United States, the word epidemic is quite often used in the description of obesity. And if figures by the Health Policy institute are anything to buy, it’s hard to put up a counter fight. The HPI found that over 15,000,000 people above 51 years are obese, which translates to a 25% obesity rate among senior citizens. In other words, for every 8 aged individuals you meet, chances are 2 of them are overweight.  But why exactly are older adults seemingly susceptible to obesity? More importantly, what can we do to manage it better? Our senior living community went in search of answers and dug up the following. 

1. Metabolic rate goes down as your age goes up  

Metabolism refers to chemical reactions in the body, which fuel us with the energy we need to get things done after we eat. Now, during our formative years, our body is consistently experiencing changes, and our system goes into overdrive to support our drastic growth and a hyperactive lifestyle driven by innate curiosity. 

Over the years, our metabolic rate however decreases as follows: 

  • 1-20 years- 3% annually 
  • 20-60- fairly constant
  • Over 60- approximately 1% decline per year

Our assisted living experts, and the medical world at large substantiate this to be down to muscle loss, although lifestyle habits may also be partly to blame.

Some common lifestyle mistakes to that effect that you might want to avoid as you age encompass: 

  • Dropping too many calories. Losing weight means burning calories, no argument there. However, there is such a thing as not eating enough calories (1,000 per day). This in turn signals your body to go into conservative mode by lowering metabolism 
  • Skimping on protein can have the same effect too, so this is the age to lean toward more healthy proteins like skinless white meat poultry. 

2. A sedentary lifestyle sets in that encourage weight gain 

A University of Turku study revealed that television viewing goes up during retirement transition, which partly contributed to a jump in sitting during free time by close to 2 hours. 

Once you bid farewell to a suffocating 9-to-5 that had you running back and forth, your lifestyle tends to become more sedentary as your daily routine loosens up. You’re now moving less, and you’re likely to spend your time taking things easy and slowing down.  This, however, means that you’re burning fewer calories, and there’s an increased likelihood of your weight heading the other way. 

While you definitely deserve loads of R&R after a life’s work, it’s important to keep active after retirement, and here are a few tips our memory day care for seniors use to ensure our elderly stay physically happy and fulfilled: 

  • Field trips. A little sightseeing is food for mind and body
  • Yoga and aerobic therapies. 
  • Shopping and lunch outings
  • Fitness classes 

If you have passions such as swimming, and gardening, factor this into your daily schedule. 

3. Aging may increase stress and anxiety, leading to weight gain

Our memory care assisted senior living team agrees with scientific reports that we’re more likely to get stressed and anxious as we grow older due to: 

  • Social disconnections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Unexpected life changes
  • Disabilities that get in the way and much more

No doubt one of the biggest culprits but stress affects people differently. For some, this can suppress hunger pangs and decrease appetite, realizing drastic weight loss. 

In an alternative scenario, constant feelings of pressure and anxiety can put your system in a regular flight-or-fight mode. Your body responds in the only way it knows how to cover up for calories it thinks you’ve used up: by overeating. 

What’s more, your metabolism rate may also lower with an increase in stress levels, as cortisol (the stress hormone) can encourage your sweet tooth and desire for fatty foods. 

4. Menopause or andropause can be a trigger for weight gain

Women can gain up to 8% more body weight once they hit menopause. So if you weigh about 100 pounds, studies find you could add 8 pounds more within the 2 years thereafter. 

This happens due to a reduction in estrogen levels, which consequently alters how your body stores and distributes fat. In younger women, weight is stored in the lower body, around your thighs and hips. Hormonal changes due to age tend to shift storage toward your abdomen. Men experience a similar effect, as testosterone levels decrease with age as well. 

As a senior citizen assisted living community, we’ve seen most of our residents turn to natural hormone therapy for a solution. These basically increase estrogen or testosterone levels in the body, which works to reverse the symptoms of aging while offering relief for: 

  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Weight gain and more

Natural hormone replacement plugs your body’s hormonal deficiencies with plant-based replicas of melatonin, DHEA, progesterone, and estriol. 

5. With aging, comes muscle loss 

You may notice your clothes start to fit a little tighter as you age, and part of the blame may lay on the doorstep of your body experiencing muscle loss. Sarcopenia, otherwise known as age-related muscle loss, typically sets in due to: 

  • A less active lifestyle. The less you use your muscles the more they deteriorate
  • Hormonal changes which may be beyond your control 

Muscles are responsible for chugging a chuck of your calories, so once you get into sarcopenia, then your body starts to burn fewer calories while you start to accumulate more fat. 

While muscle loss comes naturally with aging, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to stop it. Our assisted living center recommends increasing your protein intake and prioritizing more weight and resistance training, which can help rebuild lost muscle.  


Obesity opens the doors for several types of cancer, stroke, type II diabetes, and coronary heart disease. These chronic conditions count as the top 10 causes of death across the United States, which goes to show obesity in senior citizens is a matter that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Our Madison senior living community is well-aware of that, we go above and beyond to help seniors manage their weight better and live a longer, healthy life with our range of wellness and fitness programs. If you’d like to learn more about them, get on a call with us today. 

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