How to Adapt to Age Related Sensory Decline

How to Adapt to Age Related Sensory Decline

Glasses and Hearing Aides and Walkers, oh My!
Before I was 40 years old, I vowed if I ever needed reading glasses they would never hang on a lanyard around my neck. Tacky! Now in my 60s they don’t. The 11 pairs I own are strategically placed all over the house as well as in my purse, car, golf bag, etc.

As we age our 5 senses may deteriorate. It’s frustrating I know but accepting and adapting are key to comfortable and successful senior living.

Declining Vision. I was in the second grade when I got my first pair of prescription glasses. I don’t remember feeling ridiculed but being called “four eyes” or worse wasn’t uncommon decades ago. Today however, practically everyone wears glasses.

They are so universally worn by people of all ages we hardly notice. In fact, my granddaughter was so smitten with spectacles when her older brother got them, she put them on her Christmas list – sans corrective lenses of course.

Hearing Loss. By contrast, the social stigma of wearing hearing aids is the complete opposite of glasses. Society snubs hearing loss and equates it as a defect indicative of decrepit old age. It’s tragic that those who need auditory magnification feel too embarrassed to get and use it.

Mine will be purple and have flashing lights!

If I ever need corrective hearing devices, I will embrace them without scoffing! Kudos to my husband who wears his religiously from sun up to sun down. By her mid 50’s, my mother was completely deaf from Meniere’s Disease and eventually underwent cochlear implant surgery. The cords and external device were quite conspicuous but she had sound!

The perception that hearing aids identify a person as old is ridiculous! Consider wrinkles, age spots, gray or no hair, dress, voice pitch and a host of other characteristics that unequivocally accompany seniors. If we’re lucky enough to live long enough, we may have hearing loss.

Leaving the little hearing aids in a drawer in an effort to present as younger in public, implodes when the individual defaults to trying to supplement audition. Cupping their hand behind their ear to magnify sound, repeating “What?” or head nodding to appear engaged in a conversation.

Taste and Smell. Almost inseparable senses, they too may decline with advancing age potentially affecting healthy eating. Unfortunately smell and taste disorders are often overlooked as trivial.

After age 60 the ability to distinguish separate tastes may decline significantly enough that unhealthy flavor enhancers like salt, butter, sugar, etc. are overused. Similarly, reduced olfaction may contribute to a decline in eating all together.

Because smell influences our sense of taste, the stronger a food’s scent, the stronger it tastes. To adapt to declining taste sensations, consider a whiff of aromatic foods or flowers around meal time. Add healthy spices to enhance flavor.

Mobility. Declining mobility and stability are significant safety issues. Proprioception, the awareness of movement detected by the body’s internal sensory receptors, spatial relations, strength, coordination, judgment, reflexes can all be compromised by age and/or illness.

It doesn’t take long before someone with elements of weakness or instability curtails walking or excursions to local stores and may rapidly become house-bound. Confidence wanes too along with legitimate physical abilities. It’s crucial that medical issues be discussed in detail with the physician. Many situations can improve or at least managed with therapy, medication, equipment and/or accurate information.

Take Control. Many changes befall us as we age, some we can control and some we can’t. We can’t alter nature’s or genetic influences on sensory decline, but we can fight back with better tools such as glasses and yes hearing aids. Turning up the tv volume in lieu of wearing devices does nothing to help make environmental sounds and conversations more audible.

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Elaine C.Pereira

About Elaine C.Pereira

Elaine retired in June 2010 as a school Occupational Therapist where she worked with special needs children. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Joe. Between them, they have five children — Joe has three sons and Elaine has twin daughters-and soon-to-be five grandchildren. Elaine has a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University. Elaine is the author of I Will Never Forget and she was inspired to tell her mother’s incredible story in part to help other caregivers coping with memory loss issues in their loved ones. I Will Never Forget

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