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Experts Develop Strategies for Successful Care of Older Adults with Obesity

A summit convened by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) has resulted in the identification of seven strategies for successful care of older adults with obesity. GSA outlines the recommendations in a new publication, “Bringing Obesity Management to the Forefront of Care for Older Adults.”

This new publication expands the GSA library of resources on overweight and obesity, and supports The GSA KAER Toolkit for the Management of Obesity in Older Adults.

The summit, held in Washington, DC, in June 2023, welcomed researchers, clinicians, and representatives from a variety of communities of interest including advocacy organizations and professional societies.

“Obesity is now recognized as a chronic disease requiring lifelong therapy to correct abnormalities in a complex interplay of genetics, gastrointestinal and pancreatic hormones, gut-brain signaling, the environment, and socioeconomic factors,” said summit co-chair and GSA member John A. Batsis, MD, FACP, FGSA, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Moreover, he added that older adults are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of overweight and obesity.

“Older adults should be cared for by an interprofessional team during the weight loss process to ensure that the clinical goals are achieved without compromising overall health or other conditions,” said summit co-chair and GSA member Kathryn N. Porter Starr, PhD, MS, RDN from Duke University School of Medicine. “Patients may need long-term contact with registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, physical and/or occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists, and other involved members of the health care team.”

As identified by the interdisciplinary expert summit participants, the seven strategies to address barriers to quality obesity care for older adults are:

  1. Inform and educate about obesity as a chronic disease, requiring care across the lifespan.
  2. Address weight bias and stigma among health providers and the public.
  3. Use person-first language when referring to someone who has obesity.
  4. Respect and honor cultural considerations about body size.
  5. Engineer environments of care to accommodate people of all body sizes.
  6. Ensure access to the full range of care for older adults with obesity: diet, exercise, behavioral modification, and medical and surgical interventions.
  7. Incorporate an interprofessional, evidence-based approach to caring for older adults who have obesity.

The findings of the paper also were featured at a June 13, 2024, briefing on Capitol Hill. Starr was joined by Michael G. Knight, MD, MSHP, from The George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, GSA Director of Strategic Alliances Jen Pettis, MS, RN, CNE, and GSA Vice President of Policy and Professional Affairs Patricia M. D’Antonio, BSPharm, MS, MBA, BCGP, who moderated the briefing.

The summit and white paper were developed by GSA with the support of Novo Nordisk.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure includes a nonpartisan public policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and GSA is also home to the National Center to Reframe Aging and the National Coordinating Center for the Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research.

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