Keep Your Five Senses Sharp as You Age

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  • The five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch—help us process and understand the world around us. As people get older, their senses often dull, which can mean less enjoyment of life. But there are ways you can keep your five senses in good working order for as long as possible. Some are as easy as a few lifestyle modifications, and devices such as hearing aids can keep your conversations with loved ones going for years to come.

  • 1
    Eat right for a strong sense of sight.
    Man with orange and juice

    It’s natural that your eyesight diminishes as you age. Foods with vitamin C (like oranges), omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon), and zinc (like beans) as well as dark, leafy greens and carrots (of course) are all great for eye health. Also, visit an eye doctor at least once every other year to ensure there aren’t any problems like macular degeneration or glaucoma that go unnoticed. Older people often suffer from dry eye, so your doctor can recommend eye drops if needed. If you have cataracts, you may want to consider surgery so you can see more clearly.

  • 2
    Get a doctor’s help to improve your hearing.
    Senior man getting hearing checked

    You may notice you can’t hear as well as when you were younger. Poorer hearing can be caused by changes in the structure of the ear, which is a natural part of aging and can also be caused by some medications. A hearing aid may help, and better hearing has been shown to improve cognitive tests. Another common occurrence with older age is impacted ear wax. If you’re having difficulty hearing because of impacted ear wax, your doctor can remove it.

  • 3
    Take time to smell the roses—literally.
    Senior woman smelling a rose

    Your sense of smell is closely related to taste, and both can be affected in older age. Particularly after age 70, seniors may find it more difficult to smell danger signals, such as smoke, natural gas, or spoiled food. To protect your nose, get regular exercise and drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, as both have been linked to a decreased risk for losing your sense of smell. You can also try smell training, which helps some people increase their ability to detect odors. To do this, simply put your nose to the test, sniffing scents that you recognize for a few minutes every day.

  • 4
    An altered sense of taste may mean you need different medication.
    Senior woman looking after sick husband

    If you suspect you can’t taste your food as well as before, you could be right. You lose taste buds as you age, and older people also sometimes have other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, that can dampen your sense of taste. To keep your taste buds as perceptive as possible, make sure you manage any underlying health conditions that can affect taste. Some medications may cause dry mouth, which also can affect your sense of taste. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different drug that won’t mess with your mouth.

  • 5
    Use it or lose it, when it comes to your sense of touch.
    grandmother-with-grandchild

    The normal aging process can lead to loss of touch-detecting receptors in your skin, which can affect your sense of touch. You may not feel heat and cold at the same intensity as when you were younger. To keep your sense of touch sharp, continue using those receptors. Form-fitting clothes can activate the touch receptors in your skin, as can sensuous fabrics like silk and physical touch with people you love.

  • 6
    Be sure your lifestyle protects your five senses.
    Three senior black women exercising together

    Keeping your five senses sharp also depends on an overall healthy lifestyle. Keep your weight and blood pressure under control to promote healthy blood flow to all parts of your body. Good blood flow is necessary to keep cells alive and functioning properly. Instead of adding more salt or sugar to make up for diminished sense of taste, choose intensely flavored foods, such as garlic, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and tuna. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep so your eyes will stay well lubricated. And safeguard your ears from further damage by wearing earplugs around very loud noise.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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