How to get elderly to gain weight

Updated April 17, 2017

Helping elderly people gain weight depends on many factor---their physical, emotional and mental health, their dietary restrictions and medications. If an elderly person is underweight because of a recent illness, gaining weight may be as simple as good nutrition. However, if weight loss seems to be linked to a pervading health issue, weight gain should be pursued under a doctor's care. Helping elderly people gain weight is a special concern because many times they are already naturally losing essential vitamins as they age. Weight gain should be balanced and should be undertaken at an even and steady pace, rather than a quick one.

Purchase vitamin and protein supplements. Elderly people often lose important vitamins as they age and may be less likely to absorb them from food. Calcium is an important element for bone density, which is often lost as people age. Protein will help sustain muscle health and support skeletal function. Mixing liquid vitamins and protein powers into fluids will help elderly people gain weight when taken regularly, in addition to meals, not only because of the extra calories, but also because the protein promotes muscle growth.

Create a diet plan that contains meals with foods that are higher in calories, although are not unhealthy. Foods such as potatoes, cheeses, certain types of meats, whole-fat milk and grains (breads). Avoid foods that are high in sugar or that are high in bad fats, such as oils and trans fats. Create a nutritional balance for these higher-calorie foods with fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Create a schedule of meal times. Eating three large meals per day may not be enough to help an elderly person gain weight and may even make them feel as though they've eaten too much if they are overly full after each meal. Instead, make a daily eating schedule of 6 smaller meals and even include 2 snacks as well. Snacks can include protein bars or nutrition bars designed to promote weight gain. Eating medium-sized meals more often during the day, rather than 3 larger meals, may allow you to pack in more calories each day.

Set weight-gain goals for elderly people who can track their own progress. Because elderly people have a more fragile health status than younger adults, gaining weight too quickly could put a strain on the heart and other organs. Talk to a doctor about how much weight gain is realistic within a span of time and work to achieve those goals so that there is no health risk presented.

Purchase a set of weights that are "light weights" ranging from 0.454 to 2.72 Kilogram. Elderly people should still exercise regularly to sustain good muscle tone and overall health. Also, lifting weights may help add some muscle, especially in combination with a diet rich in protein.


Always check with a doctor to make sure that you are pursuing a healthy course of action for helping an elderly person gain weight because of medical issues that may interfere with your plan. If you fail to do so, you could put their health and their lives at risk.

Things You'll Need

  • Vitamin supplements
  • Protein supplements
  • High-calorie, healthy foods
  • Scheduled meals
  • Clear weight gain goals
  • Light weight set
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About the Author

Alicia Purdy is a freelance writer and editor living in Utah. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications.