The Aging Process and How Senses Can Change Over Time

Posted on October 15, 2020

Aging is a process that continues throughout our lives. As we grow older, we enjoy different activities, require nutritional changes, and our health needs shift. Along with these changes, our five senses, sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste, can also alter. 

Our brains require stimulation to register information about our surroundings. This stimulation is received through our five senses; we recognize a song that’s playing, smell a candle to register the scent or touch a surface to check its temperature. While senses can become less sensitive with age, there are ways that you can intervene and slow down sensitivity loss.

With senior living communities in Carthage and Lebanon, Tennessee, The Pavilion Senior Living understands the importance of maintaining health and wellness. We have outlined how our senses change over time and what you can do to strengthen yours.

Hearing: Protect Your Ears

It is considered a normal part of the aging process for hearing to weaken gradually. Miracle Ear reports that “one in three adults aged 65-74 has hearing loss.” However, hearing is not the only thing that changes in relation to the ears. 

Beyond relaying noise/sounds, your ears are responsible for helping you balance. Age-related hearing loss is most commonly associated with changes to the structure of the inner (impacting balance) or middle ear.

What can you do to slow down your loss of hearing and maintain good balance? To start, it is recommended that you get your hearing checked regularly and determine the best treatment with your physician. In addition, protect your ears by avoiding loud noises and wear earplugs when appropriate.

Vision: Importance of Eye Health

Common conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration can affect vision, while structural changes in the eyes can impact our ability to see. For instance, the pupil shrinks and cannot let in as much light as it once could. According to Penn State Health, “by the time you turn 60, your pupils may decrease to about one-third of the size they were when you were 20,” and the lens loses elasticity, making focusing on close objects more difficult. 

In order to protect your vision, get regular eye exams. These exams can help catch developing conditions in your eyes before they progress enough to affect your vision. In addition, make sure your living space has plenty of light. Adding additional lamps or bright lights in your home can help counteract your pupils not letting in enough light and can prevent eye strain.

Taste and Smell: Enjoyment and Safety

Taste and smell work together. As part of the aging process, the number of taste buds you have decreases, and the taste buds that remain shrink in size. While taste and smell sensitivity naturally decrease with age, other factors can speed up this process, including certain diseases and smoking.

Strengthen your senses of taste and smell by quitting smoking (if applicable) and using different herbs and spices when you cook. “You may not be able to sense certain dangers if you cannot smell odors such as natural gas or smoke from a fire (,” so ensure smoke detectors and other safety features are working properly in your home.

In some cases, certain medications can affect taste and smell. If your medication is impacting these senses, talk to your doctor about other options.

Touch: Fall Prevention

Medline Plus states, “the sense of touch makes you aware of pain, temperature, pressure, vibration, and body position.” Our sense of touch decreases as we grow older, in part, due to reduced blood flow to nerve endings, the spinal cord, or the brain. Other reasons include a lack of proper nutrition, chronic disease, or nerve damage from a previous injury or surgery.

For older adults, loss of touch poses concerns for walking due to decreased body awareness and inability to sense their feet on the ground. Additionally, individuals may not be able to rate the severity of an injury because they do not feel as much pain. 

The Pavilion Senior Living offers skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and senior living services in Tennessee and West Virginia. Our mission is to be the most trusted provider of senior care services. We are equipped to assist you in navigating the aging process, physical changes, and creating an atmosphere that maintains overall health and wellness. To learn more about our communities or services, we encourage you to contact a member of The Pavilion Senior Living team.

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