How Does Aging Affect the Senses?

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The five senses—hearing, vision, taste, smell, and touch—play a big role in daily functioning throughout every stage of life. Yet all these senses can be affected to some extent by the natural changes that go along with aging. Sensory changes such as those discussed below have the potential to affect an older adult’s overall quality of life, but there are often ways to address issues related to these changes.

Vision

Structures such as the retina and cornea, which help the brain process light into meaningful images, can be affected by age-related wear. Sharpness of vision (visual acuity) also naturally decreases with age, and weaker eye muscles can narrow the field of vision. Aging eyes may also be affected by:

• Reduced tear production
• Conditions such as macular degeneration that affect central vision
• Changes in the gel-like substance (vitreous) that fills most of the eye’s interior, which can cause people to see shadows of microscopic fibers (“floaters”) in the vitreous

Senior eyes can also be affected by cloudy lenses (cataracts) and changes in eye fluid pressure (glaucoma). Older adults with diabetes could develop eye problems because of abnormal blood flow (retinal vascular disease).

Seniors with significant vision loss often need help to continue living at home safely. If your senior loved one needs hourly or live-in care, South Tampa Home Care Assistance can help. Our caregivers can assist with exercise and mobility, prepare nutritious meals, provide timely medication reminders, and help with a wide array of other important daily tasks.

Hearing

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 25 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 have some degree of hearing loss. This percentage is higher for adults 75 and older. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) tends to be progressive but slow, which is why it’s often not noticed until others point it out. Age-related changes in ear structures can also contribute to:

• The inability to recognize various sounds
• Problems with balance
• Difficulty hearing certain pitches or frequencies

Older adults also tend to be more likely to develop problems with internal ear noises (tinnitus). An accumulation of earwax is another possible source of senior hearing issues. Hearing aids are often an effective way to counteract age-related hearing loss.

Taste & Smell

These two senses often work together. For instance, a reduced ability to detect or interpret certain odors can affect the way food tastes. Taste is affected by a cluster of nerve endings called taste buds. The average person has about 10,000 taste buds, a number that naturally decreases with age. The remaining taste buds also tend to shrink. Additionally, saliva production decreases with age, which can also affect the sense of taste.

Somewhere around the age of 70, the sense of smell naturally decreases. It’s believed this is caused by changes in nerve endings and reduced mucus production. Age-related changes involving taste and smell may be offset by:

• Using more spices when cooking to boost flavor
• Asking the doctor if medications that may be affecting taste or smell can be adjusted
• Using safety products, such as natural gas detectors

Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality at-home care. South Tampa families trust Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.

Touch

The sense of touch refers to the awareness of pain and the ability to distinguish among different textures, sensations, vibrations, and temperatures. All these sensations are interpreted by the brain, a process that can be affected by underlying health issues related to circulation, nerve function, and changes within the brain. Some older adults may become less aware of pain, while others may become more sensitive to light touches because skin naturally becomes thinner with age. Seniors may be able to manage age-related changes involving the sense of touch by:

• Lowering household water temperatures to prevent burns
• Regularly inspecting skin for sores and other signs of damage
• Making an effort to address chronic or underlying health issues

If your elderly loved one needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of senior home care. Our caregivers provide transportation to and from medical appointments and social events, nutritious meal preparation, assistance with daily exercise, and help with everyday tasks like bathing, grooming, and light housekeeping. Home Care Assistance can be your trusted partner when your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging. Call us today at (813) 302-7632 to learn about our high-quality in-home care services.

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