As we age, our senses become less sharp and affect how we interpret our surroundings. The loss of our senses can cause frustration, lack of self-worth, isolation and possibly lead to injuries from falls.
Some sensory loss can be avoided. Let’s take it sense by sense.
When you reach your forties, the natural flexibility of the lens may change and become more rigid making it more difficult to see up close. This is called Presbyopia. Various health issues may also affect your eyesight.
Protect Your Eyesight
- Avoid eye strain
- Perform tasks in proper lighting
- Limit time spent looking at anything for an extended period of time, whether it is up close or far away. For example, if you are reading, take a break every once in a while and look off to the distance to give your eyes a break, or just sit quietly and close your eyes for a minute or two and give your entire body a quick break
- Protect the eyes if you are going out in the sun with sunglasses
- If you have prescription glasses, wear them
- Get proper nutrition
- Eyes have nutritional needs too. Omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins C & E may promote eye health. Eating citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables which are high in Lutein, nuts, and fatty fish will help keep your eyes healthy
- Avoid smoking
- Monitor your general health
- High blood pressure and diabetes can be detrimental to eye health
- Have your eyes checked once a year or with any significant change in vision
Care for Your Glasses
- Use an eyeglass necklace to lessen the chance of losing them
- Clean glasses regularly
- If living in an assisted living or a long term care facility, consider having your name etched into the arm of the glasses
There are several reasons why we lose hearing as we age. Approximately one in three people between the age of 65 -74 experience hearing loss. As you get older, the percentage increases to almost fifty percent.
Causes of Hearing Loss
- Presbycusis – the gradual loss of hearing as one ages
- Overexposure to noise for long period of time
- Viral or bacterial infection
- Heart condition, stroke, head injury or tumor
- Medication side affects
Protect Your Ears
- Follow up with a medical professional with any sign of hearing loss or pain
- Healthy nutritional intake is important for your hearing as well
- Limit exposure to loud noise, once the small hair cells in your ears are destroyed they cannot be replaced
In the event of hearing loss:
- Think about hearing devices. If the concern of losing the hearing device is the deterrent, consider insurance or ask the professional about a minimally visible tether for the device
- If living in an assisted living or long term care facility, consider putting initials on the hearing aids
- Inform others of your hearing loss and ask them to face you, to speak clearly and use expression and gestures when they engage you in conversation
- Minimize background noise
Taste and smell
Reasons for Changes in the Senses of Taste and Smell
- Both can diminish with age as the taste buds and nerves in the nose degenerate
- Nasal sinus conditions
- Poor dental hygiene
- Medication side affects
- Neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
As changes occur with your sense of smell and taste, the appetite can wane.
What can you do to help?
- Be social – eat with someone
- Try different flavors
- Watch that salt intake
- Avoid smoking
- Get proper nutrition.
- Limit alcohol intake with meals
- Drink more water
- Eat foods that look like themselves
- Eat a different type of food with each bite
As we age, changes in our skin and nervous system may decrease our sensitivity with our sense of touch.
Changes in skin can occur due to
- Poor nutrition
- Circulatory issues
- Skin and nerve damage
- Brain disorders
- Medication side effects
- Sun damage
How can we help minimize these changes?
- Proper nutrition
- Proper skin care
- Proper sun exposure
What we may not realize is that changes in our five senses can influence our balance, pain threshold, the ability to realize temperature changes, and sense of motion & pressure. This can lead to an increase in falls or injury, and a decrease in quality of life. It is important to adapt and attend to the changes in our bodies.
So take care of your entire body- it makes sense!