Obesity is an increasingly serious and widespread problem not just in the United States, but many places around the world. An estimated 32.5 percent of all American adults are overweight, and another 36.5 percent are obese. Globally, the World Health Organization says that, globally, more than 1.9 billion adults over the age of 18 are overweight, while 650 million are obese in 2016.
While a concerning increase in obesity is currently occurring among children, equally worrying is the number of older adults who are growing heavier year by year.
Obesity, at any age, is dangerous. It has immediate and long-term effects on people’s physical as well as mental well-being. The impact of excess weight is even worse among older adults.
Miserable Final Years
In fact, experts warn that obesity among older adults is guaranteed to affect the quality of life in their twilight years.
A study was conducted by researchers using data from thousands of Singaporean adults over the age of 60. They analyzed the body mass index (BMI) category of each participant and the years of remaining life in which they have or have no limitations in physical functions and activities for daily living.
The researchers found that the participants who were obese could expect six years of remaining life with limitations in physical function and five years less of remaining life without. This is in comparison to participants who have a normal BMI. In the study, limitations in physical function are measured through nine simple tasks that involve the use of arms and legs, including walking 200-300 meters, climbing ten steps without pausing for rest, and raising both hands above the head.
Meanwhile, the researchers found that seniors who are obese have 3.5 years more of remaining life without limitations in activities of daily living and 3.5 more years of with limitations. The activities in daily functioning include eating, bathing, dressing, doing housework, taking transport, and managing their own medication and treatment.
Having limitations in both physical function and activities in daily life can affect a person’s quality of life. It means they can no longer be independent. Moreover, it will influence other aspects of their day-to-day such as their hobbies, the type and amount of exercise they can do, where they can go, and their social interactions and their relationships. Plus, it could lead to poor hygiene and nutrition.
Obesity in older adults has previously been found to affect cognition, or the ability of the brain to process and recall information. While cognition is known to deteriorate with age, excess weight makes it worse. Studies have already found that cognition deteriorates faster among those who are considered obese.
The decline of cognitive abilities can contribute toward worse quality of life.
Preventing Obesity by Choosing a Healthy Diet
Diet is important among seniors. They should consume a balanced meal regularly to avoid obesity, becoming underweight, and the chronic illnesses that come with advanced age. However, because of different factors, a healthy diet is harder to achieve for older adults.
Those who have an underlying health condition, injury, or taking medication that impairs their movement, strength, and cognition may find it difficult to make healthy meals every single day or shop for fresh ingredients regularly. They may opt to eat canned goods or microwavable meals because they are easier to prepare and have a longer shelf life.
It does not have to be that way. Families with loved ones who are in their senior years should consider meal prep, a process in which a person prepares food ahead of time. Typically, meal prep is done on weekends. You cook food for the entire week and then section them into containers to be refrigerated. Your loved one will only need to take out a container and reheat its contents in the microwave before every meal.
There are also meal subscription boxes that deliver fresh ingredients right on the customer’s doorstep. It is convenient because these meals are healthy and easy to do (they come with instructions) as well as eliminate the need for grocery shopping.
If cooking is becoming harder for your elderly loved one, it might be time to consider hiring home care services. Talk to professional senior living advisors about the right arrangement and ask for recommendations. However, a home care provider will come to the patient’s home to offer support with personal care, household chores, administration of treatment, and, of course, preparing meals. A home care provider allows seniors to live comfortably in their homes and guarantee their health with the help of a trained professional.
Obesity is a serious public health threat that can affect everyone, including seniors. The older population may suffer a decline in quality of life because of the consequences of high BMI. They can, however, live healthily for longer through proper nutrition.