People aged 60 and over who have overweight and obesity face different health challenges when seeking obesity care and deserve respect and a comprehensive care approach consistent with their personalized medical needs.
The simple truth is that older adults face not only weight bias but also ageism when seeking obesity care. Living with these stigmas presents unique challenges in the health care system, especially because older adults have a different physiology than those younger than age 60. A key issue among older adults is the combination of obesity and the naturally occurring decline in skeletal muscle mass called sarcopenia, which increases the risk for disease and requires tailored treatment.
Recognizing these challenges, people over age 60 living with obesity have the right to:
- Expect obesity care from health providers who are both specialists in the diseases and illnesses of older adults and are knowledgeable in obesity care.
- Be screened with diagnostic tools that account for loss of muscle mass. This may entail combining BMI and waist circumference measurement.
- Be evaluated for treatment based on the person’s functional ability, chronic illness, and social determinants of health outcomes and daily challenges such as transportation and health literacy.
- Have a care plan tailored to the person’s health goals, stage of life and medical needs.
- Have access to and full coverage for all obesity treatments across the continuum of care, including lifestyle change counseling, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications (AOMs), and bariatric surgery.
- Have access to and full coverage for a health educator in obesity as a key part of the care team.
- Receive community-based weight management and obesity treatment services, including support from patient advocates and patient navigators to address the individual’s transportation, dietary needs and financial assistance needs.