Sensory Loss in Seniors

Each of the five senses connects us to our world in different ways, but as we age they begin to change. The staff and caregivers at The Preserve understand that sensory loss has a great impact on older adults and also can be difficult to grasp for those who are not experiencing the same.

A 2016 study by the University of Chicago Medical Center found that 94 percent of older adults in the United States have at least one sensory deficit, 38 percent have two, and 28 percent have three, four or five. This is the first study to measure the full-spectrum of impairment to all five senses and the findings show a strong association to age, gender and race.

When we think of sensory loss, oftentimes age-related hearing loss comes to mind first, but what about the other 4 senses? Let’s take a look at common challenges our aging loved ones face each day and learn more about what to expect as we grow older, including ways to protect our senses.


Imagine not being able to see the beauty around us with clear vision. Studies show that by the age of 65, 1 person in three will have some form of vision-reducing eye disease, which can produce blind spots, blurred or cloudy vision or loss of peripheral vision.


The sound of laughter and to hear the voice of a loved one or friend in conversation can be frustrating for the one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 who have difficulty hearing. Hearing loss can increase loneliness and cause an aging family member to engage in conversation less often, especially in larger groups or loud rooms, and become more isolated.


Peripheral neuropathy affects more than 20 million Americans, leaving them with nerve damage to the hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy refers to the various conditions, including a tingling feeling and/or numbness, that involve damage to the body’s communication network (peripheral nervous system).


Did you know that by the age of 65, the average adult has lost 50 percent of their taste buds? The foods we love, the textures and tastes, and for some the ability to chew, when no longer there can have a profound effect on a person’s daily life and can even become serious when the loss of taste changes a senior’s eating habits.


A scent that brings back a fond memory might be a favorite family recipe. Working hand-in-hand with the sense of taste, thirty percent of Americans between 70 and 80 years of age notice a change in their sense of smell. A sense of smell that declines with age is not preventable.

At The Preserve, we do what we can to make things a little easier for our residents. One resident was having trouble reading buttons on the remote control, so a staff member took a picture and labeled them. Here are a few more examples:

  • Closed Captioning is activated on all the televisions throughout the community
  • Meditation Mondays for the Memory Support residents
  • Hand massages with lotion which provides the physical touch the seniors desperately need
  • Increase the font size of TV guides to make reading easier

Although we can’t go back in time, we can begin doing things now to protect our senses and minimize the effects of aging:

  • Regular visits to doctors and specialists you trust
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Kick bad habits, including smoking and excessive drinking
  • Wear sunglasses and control exposure to the sun
  • Turn down the volume
  • Train your sense of smell with distinctly different odors
  • Move your body
  • Hug someone

There are many more tips to live by that will lead to overall mental and physical health and help reduce the impact of sensory loss.

Supporting an older adult with sensory loss in turn will help to improve their safety, enjoyment and quality of life. Our staff at The Preserve takes this information seriously and uses it to help empathize with an aging loved one’s changing senses.