A new approach to obesity prevention and management is needed to help all older U.S. adults age in good health, according to a new report from the National Council on Aging’s Obesity and Equitable Aging Group.

The group has published its takeaways from a meeting on the subject that took place in the fall of 2021. It is calling for healthcare providers, public health officials, policymakers and researchers to participate in making systemswide, multifaceted changes based around 10 drivers of the U.S. obesity epidemic and corresponding solutions. 

Nearly 43% of U.S. adults aged 60 years and older has obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more. Its prevalence has also steadily increased, they said. Three decades ago, 24% of U.S. adults were estimated to have the condition.

Obesity is tied to more than 200 serious health conditions and is the second-strongest predictor after age of COVID-19-related complications, hospitalizations and death, they reported. The likelihood of nursing home admission is also higher for people who have obesity at midlife when compared to those who do not.

In fact, the number of residents with obesity has been rising for some time. And some long-term care clinicians have seen an uptick in bariatric (clinically obese) residents who are too functionally impaired to return home to the community, McKnight’s Clinical Daily has reported.

Authors of the new report found 10 drivers of inequities that contribute to the obesity problem and identified solutions. They propose better coordination between health systems and community-based programs, improved access to available treatment options, and recognition of cultural and social determinants of health. 

Current solutions are often one-size-fits-all, despite differences between members of the older adult population, they said. Stakeholders should recognize these differences and “provide tailored, personalized approaches to obesity treatment that consider factors such as an individual’s level of functional ability, chronic illness, food and activity environments and health literacy,” they wrote.

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.