Change is inevitable as we age from adulthood into late life. However, those changes are more than just skin-deep worries such as wrinkles, graying hair, and age spots. Many older adults experience physical changes due to aging that while aren’t noticeable, can significantly impact them and how they lead their everyday lifestyles. Age-related sensory decline is a surprisingly widespread problem among older adults worldwide, with two-thirds of the U.S. elderly population suffering from at least two sensory deficits.
Vision and Aging
For most older adults, their vision starts to decline around their mid-50s. Many of us don’t know that as people age, the shape of our eye lenses changes. Usually, the pupil shrinks in size, and the lens and cornea become more opaque, causing a person’s field of view to shrink as well. These aging-related physical changes in the eye can cause visual difficulties, including decreased ability to see objects, focus on certain objects in view, distinguish color hues, and even judge distances accurately. Furthermore, many different forms of vision loss become more common with age, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Hearing and Aging
Hearing is the first sense that older adults tend to experience changes in as they age, with individuals experiencing a decline in their hearing ability once they hit their mid-40s. Most individuals experience hearing loss at a very gradual pace as middle-aged adults, the problem developing slowly but surely as their eardrums lose their elasticity, making it more difficult for sounds to transmit. Hence it’s always best to be on high alert when it comes to this chronic condition. People experiencing hearing loss can have problems with hearing in different ways, whether they become unable to distinguish words that sound similar, or become unable to hear high-frequency sounds.
Taste, Smell, and Aging
An average person’s sense of taste starts to decline in their mid-60s, while their sense of smell declines starting from their mid-70s. To many people’s surprise, the senses of taste and smell are closely related. While we often take these senses for granted, they are extremely vital for our everyday living. Despite this, the sense of taste is the most common sense to be impaired with age, with 74% of elderly adults in the U.S. experiencing sensory deficits when it comes to taste. Losing one’s sense of taste and smell can lead to further complications that go beyond sensory impairment, such as discouraging one from eating due to their taste buds decreasing as they age, which can eventually lead to poor nutrition and health overall.
Touch and Aging
Most people start to lose their sense of touch in their mid-50s as their skin’s sensitivity becomes duller, which is unfortunate considering how crucial it is to alert us of different stimuli such as temperature and even pain. Not only does this affect how an older adult reacts to external stimuli, but it can also cause them to experience difficulties with motor functions that they were previously able to execute without problem, such as writing or using scissors.
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