Physician: Elder facilities can lead to greater obesity, health problems

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Residents of assisted living and other senior care facilities may face an increased risk of becoming overweight, a Pennsylvania physician warns.

A host of health problems can result from a routine of three full meals a day in a group setting, plus a possibly relaxed lifestyle and limited opportunities for exercise, says Dr. Carl Wenzel, a Warminster Hospital physician who treats elderly patients in the Philadelphia area.

"We've got a major problem and it's going to get worse," Wenzel said, referring to obesity and the baby boomer surge into old age. Wenzel said that in recent years he has seen a distinct rise in older patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and joint problems. All are conditions often related to weight gain.

Obesity among people ages 50 and above rose 85% from 1982 to 1999, according to the most recent figures available from the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.