How to Keep Your Senses Sharp as You Age

Your perception of the world around you would be quite different if not for your five senses.

Your eyes, nose, tongue, ears, and skin work together so that you can recognize the many different sensations that guide your choices and behavior throughout each day. Unfortunately, many natural and unnatural forces that occur throughout your lifetime diminish your ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel as you get older. Here's what you can do to help protect your senses:

Know the Warning Signs

Get regular physical check-ups that include vision and hearing tests, and see specialists as soon as possible if specific health problems come up. For instance, if you start to see floaters (dust- or thread-like images drifting into your field of vision in one or both eyes), see an opthalmologist as soon as possible. Though most likely harmless, floaters can be a sign of retinal detachment that can lead to permanent loss of vision. When it comes to your sense of touch, pay attention if you notice you are dropping things more often than usual or if you feel no pain in some areas of your body, or too much sensitivity to pain in others. These may be signs of a medical condition that needs attention.

Eat Right

The vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you get from food support the senses, especially vision and hearing. Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and dairy substitutes, olive oil and other healthy fats, and low-fat sources of protein, such as seafood and lean cuts of meat and poultry. Make sure your diet contains plenty of dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and spinach as well as other deeply-colored vegetables and fruit such as carrots and oranges.

Manage Medical Conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, infections, allergies, and arthritis can lead to further loss of either eyesight, hearing, smell, and your sense of touch. Poor dental hygiene can affect your ability to taste food. Keep these conditions under control and manage them as well as possible.

Disease management may include lifestyle changes such as modifying your diet, getting certain types of physical exercise, and finding ways to reduce the impact of stress, as well as taking any medications recommended by your healthcare provider in the manner prescribed. At the same time, some medications can cause side effects that impact your senses, though often temporarily. If you experience any side effects from a medication or self-prescribed supplement, be sure to report them to your doctor.

5 More Ways to Protect Your Senses

  • Vision changes with age. If you wear corrective lenses, be sure your current prescription isn't outdated. If you don't wear glasses, and you find it more difficult to see than when you were younger, make an appointment with an optometrist to check your vision, and make sure you have strong, non-glaring lighting at home and at work.
  • To protect your hearing, avoid constant exposure to loud noise, or wear earplugs if you frequently find yourself in a noisy situation.
  • If grip is a problem, pay attention when lifting small objects and use both hands if necessary, to avoid dropping.
  • If you find you are not tasting food the way you used to, add herbs and spices to dishes to increase flavor. Serve a variety of foods with different colors and textures on the plate. One example is to simply adding crunchy whole-grain croutons or nuts to soups, salads, and other dishes.
  • If you smoke, quitting can help improve your senses of smell and taste. Treating chronic allergies and other nasal diseases can also improve these senses.




The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary: Smell and Taste Disorders. Web.

National Institutes of Health Medline Plus: Aging changes in the Senses

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service: Understanding the Effects of Aging on the Sensory System. Web.

University of Connecticut Health Center: Taste and Smell. Web.