Tips for Water Intake for Older Adults

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 25, 2024
4 min read

Water helps you digest your food, absorb nutrients, and get rid of waste. As you get older, you might lose your sense of thirst. Also, medicines you're taking or health conditions may make it more likely that you're not getting enough water.

Water is essential for life. Your body is made up of a lot of water and you need it to keep your organs and body healthy. If you don’t get enough water or other fluids every day, you can become dehydrated. This happens when you lose more water than you take in.

Signs of dehydration in older adults include:

  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Urinating fewer than four times a day
  • Dry mouth, lips, eyes, or skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Disorientation

When you’re older, dehydration can cause lots of health problems. Not drinking enough fluids can lead to:

As you get older, your sense of thirst changes and you don’t notice that you need a drink as easily as you once did. To make it worse, when you don’t have enough fluids, you become even less thirsty and drink less water. This can quickly lead to dehydration.

Some medications like laxatives and diuretics (water pills) can cause you to have problems getting enough fluids. Some health problems might also cause you to be dehydrated or have trouble drinking water. These include:

If you have trouble getting around, it might be hard to get to the washroom quickly. This can lead to incontinence, which sometimes makes people avoid drinking. This can cause problems with not getting enough water intake. Incontinence can be caused by other problems, too. 

Living in a long-term care home like a nursing home can also lead to not enough water intake. This can be caused by needing help with feeding or not having enough access to water or other drinks. 

If you have a stomach bug that's making you throw up and causing diarrhea, you might also easily get dehydrated. Older adults are more likely to catch a virus, too.

Dehydration can also be caused by depression. Sometimes you might not feel like eating or drinking and you might not take in enough fluid. 

Older adults are also more sensitive to the heat. If you’re outside in the summer and don’t drink enough water, you can quickly become dehydrated.

You should aim for 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. Here are some simple tips for making sure you reach your goal and get enough water.

Sip on drinks throughout the day. Get a reusable water bottle with a straw and fill it with plain water. Take it with you wherever you go and sip it throughout the day. Sometimes using a straw is easier, and you might be surprised at how much you drink.

Have a full glass of water when you take a pill. If you take medications at different times of the day, this can be a great opportunity to get more water.

Have a cup of low-fat soup as an afternoon snack. Broths and soups count as fluid intake toward your daily goal. Soup is a great snack that can help keep you hydrated.

Freshen up your water. Sometimes adding a few slices of lemon or orange or some ice cubes can give water a fresh taste. This can make it easier to drink more. 

Take sips of water between bites of your meal. Take some time to add fluids while you eat. These sips can add up to better hydration. 

Eat soft, wet foods that have high water content. These can be foods like yogurt, gelatin desserts, pureed fruit, and custard.

Set a daily tea appointment with a friend. Taking a break for a healthy drink with a friend can be an easy and enjoyable way to get more fluids. 

Limit your alcohol. Alcoholic drinks don’t count toward your daily fluid count. If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t have too much. This means 1 alcoholic drink a day for women and up to 2 for men.

Keep drinking water if you have incontinence. If you have incontinence or you’re up a lot in the night to use the washroom, don’t stop drinking water. This can cause you to get dehydrated quickly. Instead, see your doctor for treatment. 

Good water intake is an important part of staying healthy. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough water and it’s affecting your health, make sure to talk to your doctor.