After reading my plea for blog post ideas, a friend of mine recently suggested that I write about how disordered eating impacts older adults in different ways than it impacts younger adults and adolescents. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh! How could I have neglected so many? I know that disordered eating impacts people of all ages, shapes, and both genders, yet I have been focusing primarily on younger folks.”
Today, when I went looking for information on the web about disordered eating among older adults, I found very few articles, so I realized that it’s not just me who has neglected this topic–all the more reason that I should post on it. One article that I did find had this to say about triggers for disordered eating:
- “While some triggers of eating disorders may look similar for younger vs. older patients, there are some definite differences as the stressors in life change as one gets older. ‘The triggers differ for younger vs. older women in that older women are dealing a lot more with issues of loss and grieving,’ says Grishkat. ‘Younger women’s issues tend to focus more on transitions. Regardless of when you develop an eating disorder, the one common trigger is stress of some sort. The stressors just change with age. So while younger, the women may have been dealing with the transition from high school to college or from childhood to adulthood, older women’s stressors include such things as empty nest, divorce, loss of parents, widowhood, retirement, chronic illness/disability, death of an adult child, and growing old/facing mortality.’ Additional triggers for older adults dealing with eating disorders can include lack of enthusiasm for life; attempts to get attention from family members; protest against living conditions, such as in a nursing home; economic hardship; and medical problems.”
As I read this article, I began to see that there are, indeed, different stressors dealt with at different times in our lives. Isolation and aloneness (or the threat of it) could have a huge impact on one’s eating habits. Medical problems, children moving away from home, death of a partner or friends, are all potential sources of loneliness. Those who have struggled off and on for years with disordered eating habits may find their network of supportive people shrinking and may need assistance connecting with new supports. Others who have been working towards good physical health because of external reinforcers like compliments or because others encouraged them to, may suddenly be faced with having to find some new, internal reinforcement for their efforts to become and stay healthy.
I’d like to spend a few weeks posting about this topic. (Thank you so much, my friend, for the ideas!) Each week, I’ll try to post about an adaptive strategy for coping with these stressors. For now, let’s all try to remember that disordered eating and body image concerns are NOT limited to the young…they can impact us at all ages. Let’s see what we can do this week to reach out to people of all ages who may need our support.
Peace, joy, and health!