We can’t turn back time, but you can minimize the effects of aging on your senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Here are 10 ways to safeguard your senses and stay active.
1. Find doctors and specialists you trust. Regular check-ups become more important as we age. Staying on top of symptoms with a general practitioner or geriatrician can help pinpoint important changes in sensory loss. Remember regular appointments with the dentist and eye doctor as well. Occupational therapists play an important role to help individuals adapt to certain losses including vision.
2. Eat like your life depends on it. A poor diet can jeopardize health and contribute to a decline in senses. For example, a diet lacking antioxidant vitamins or too much junk food has been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration.
3. Stop smoking . . . and other hazardous habits. In addition to being bad for your health overall, your senses could benefit from giving up the smoking habit. Smoking has been linked to loss of all of the senses. What’s more, smoking and drinking could wreak havoc on taste buds.
4. Celebrate the sun safely. The sun provides important Vitamin D that can boost our health, but did you know that lifelong exposure to the sun could cause cataracts? Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
5. Turn down the volume. Seniors and boomers grew up with 60s and 70s rock and roll music. If you don’t want to have to turn up the volume as you get older, crank it down now and avoid other loud noises. Take a break from loud noises every 15 minutes and minimize the risk of hearing damage by wearing ear plugs. Musicians’ ear plugs can reduce the volume of music without muffling it.
6. Exercise your sense of smell. Smell begins to deteriorate for older adults, especially after the age of 70, experts say. Loss of smell also could be a predictor of health risks such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts believe training can help improve sense of smell. One idea is to smell four to six distinctly different odors such as cloves, roses, lemon and eucalyptus each day over a period of several weeks.
7. Keep moving. Exercise has been called the fountain of youth, helping to keep the heart strong and manage conditions such as arthritis. As it turns out, exercise also could improve sight by helping increase blood flow to the eyes, experts note.
8. Become a hugger. The importance of sense of touch has been verified by research. One study reports that brain scans have revealed that touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region associated with learning and decision-making as well as with emotional and social behaviors. “Kiss and hug, or pet a dog,” notes Home Instead Senior Care® Gerontologist Lakelyn Hogan. “Human contact is so important in helping to prevent isolation and depression that can accompany aging.”
9. Protect your head and sinuses. Head injuries and sinus infections are leading causes of smell decline, which could also lead to problems with taste. So it’s important to prevent them as much as possible and treat them promptly if they do occur, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “Always wear your seatbelt—head trauma is the No. 1 cause of loss of smell,” he says. And use a saline nasal rinse regularly to prevent mucus build-up and reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial infections that can compromise your sense of smell.
10. Get help when you need it. Consider home care to help mitigate the impact of sensory loss. Assistance at home could keep seniors who are suffering from loss of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch independent longer.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.