Obesity Rates Climb in the Elderly

Susan Farley
Published Online: Sunday, August 1, 2004

As the obesity epidemic focuses mainly on adult and adolescent populations, rates of obesity in the elderly population are becoming just as dangerous. According to Dr. Carl Wenzel, a physician at the Warminster Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa, rates of obesity among people aged 50 years and older increased by 85% from 1982 to 1999. In those 85 years and older, the percentage of obese people increased from 4.1% to 8.3% in 1999.Among people aged 75 to 84, rates increased from 7.7% to 15.1% in the same time period.

Often the meals served in retirement communities and assisted-care facilities are large. Many elderly are unable to burn off the calories because of physical ailments and limitations. The social setting in which they dine is a factor as well. They tend to eat more while dining in large groups, thus leading to the phenomenon that Dr.Wenzel calls the "senior 15"?a 15-lb weight gain among elderly people.

The solution, Dr. Wenzel suggests, is portion control and healthier meals, although he acknowledges the difficulties of diet change in this population. "Many people in this age group grew up on the traditional meat and potatoes diet. That's how they've always eaten."

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