Friday, July 6, 2012

Senses of smell, taste can change with age

This week, my blog discusses sensory changes that accompany aging – specifically the changes to taste and smell that come with aging.

In a recent study, the foods most often identified by taste and smell were: salt 89%, coffee 71%, tomato 69%, fish 59% and sugar 57%.  There is an indication that the senses of taste and smell decline significantly with age. If an individual is also having difficulty with their vision, they may be quite limited in their ability to identify foods, causing foods to have little appeal. Distinctive textures and temperatures, such as in ice cream or popcorn, can be important for the enjoyment of foods.

Poor nutrition can have serious consequences for elderly people, so it is important that they eat properly.  Tasteless foods make eating less enjoyable and bland, low salt or other diet restrictions can contribute to the undesirability of food.  A pleasant mealtime atmosphere and foods that are enjoyed in a social setting can make people feel more like eating.  Talking about food, the good taste and smell can make the food appear to taste better. Condiments and foods with strong flavors may also help to maintain interest in eating.

Poor sense of smell and taste may make it difficult to recognize spoiled foods or the smell of danger such as gas.  This is a potential hazard for the person who lives alone.  Older people with diminished smell and taste are encouraged to keep track of the age of foods in their refrigerators and check the pilot lights of gas stoves regularly.  Also, family members and friends can check these things whenever they visit.

I hope this bit of information has been helpful.  If you are looking after a parent, grandparent, friend, or elderly family member, please remember these tips that can help you compensate for the effects of diminished taste and smell on your loved one.

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