(NewsUSA) - Whether we're reading a favorite book, taking in the smell of fresh-cut grass or savoring an old family recipe, we use our senses every day to experience and understand the world around us. But while it's clear that our senses are an important part of our lives, they're often something we take for granted.
The difficult reality of sensory loss is no more apparent than on the demographic that experiences it most: seniors. Nearly 83 percent of older adults in the United States are living with at least one diminished sense, according to a new survey by Home Instead, Inc. The current COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified isolation and loneliness for those experiencing sensory loss, making it harder for those without assistive technology to stay connected with their loved ones.
"As we age, it's normal to experience some changes or decline in our five senses," says Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care. "Early detection and empathy can significantly increase the ability to manage symptoms and help create a supportive environment at home that allows you or your loved one to continue living a normal, fulfilling life."
Whether you're helping a loved one navigate these difficulties, or looking to minimize the effects of aging on your own senses, Hogan recommends the following tips:
1. Stay active. Making time for physical activity, even a few times a week, can be greatly beneficial for your senses and overall health. Whether you're taking part in online fitness classes, walking around the subdivision or practicing simple movements in your living room, it's important to keep your body moving. Regular exercise has been shown to increase cognitive function, prevent common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, strengthen bones - and even increase blood flow to important areas such as the eyes.
2. Create healthy eating habits. A well-balanced diet does more than make us feel better - it provides us with the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain and enrich our senses. Whenever possible, plan nourishing and healthy meals that include proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables. The more colors on your plate the better. If you're unable to visit the grocery store or feel stressed in the kitchen, consider making use of delivery services like Instacart and Uber Eats, or taking advantage of the free tips and recipes available at www.FoodForSeniors.com.
3. Turn down the volume. If you don't want to keep cranking up the volume as you get older, turn it down now. Consider taking a break from loud noises every 15 minutes and wearing ear plugs when necessary to minimize the risk of hearing damage.
4. Protect your eyes and vision. According to the survey by Home Instead, Inc., vision is the most feared sense to lose. Unfortunately, it is also the most prevalent. Take advantage of the many low-cost items available to help preserve your eyesight. Make it a habit to regularly wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet rays, or blue-light filtering glasses to help minimize the eye strain associated with increased screen time during COVID-19.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You don't need to endure sensory loss alone. Establish a network of doctors you trust and schedule routine check-ups. Regular visits, even online video appointments, can help a general practitioner or geriatrician stay on top of symptoms and pinpoint important changes in sensory loss. Consider seeing a specialized health care professional, such as an ear, nose and throat doctor or an occupational therapist, depending on the cause and severity of the symptoms you're experiencing.