Senior Adults' Sense of Smell Issues

Aging isn't smelly

In fact, it is the opposite.  Sense of smell declines as we reach our later years.  This impacts three aspects of the senior adult's life.

Getting old stinks.
Getting old stinks. | Source

Taste

Sadly, because our sense of taste is crucially related to our sense of smell - as the nose goes, so do the taste buds. Bleccch! Foods previously relished seem less flavorful. And, if an individual is losing appetite, this phenomenon does not help matters.

Personal Hygiene

If one can't smell as keenly as before, some of those past cues for the need to wash are gone. Thus, we have elders with the potential for stinky bodies and/or stinky clothing. Have you ever worn a top for so brief a time, that you defer washing it and "sniff the pits" to see if it can be re-worn before laundry day? Well, since the smelling faculty is impaired, some seniors are wearing clothing that should have failed the "pit sniff test." Another aspect of this decreased sense of smell on personal hygiene is the over-perfumed little old lady. She applies a little cologne, but can't perceive that any is there. So, she keeps pouring it on. Literally.

Cleanliness and Safety of the Home

Our smell sense gives us valuable information. Is the food rotten? Is the milk still good? What IS that odor in the sink? Receiving accurate feedback helps us stay healthy. Cleanliness may or may not draw one closer to the Almighty, but it certainly contributes to healthy living. A particularly troubling location for losing smell is the bathroom. Older men have the double whammy of, shall we say, losing their nose and losing their aim at the toilet? Smell can cue those in the household for the need to clean the bathroom floors or walls. An even more serious loss is the ability to detect smoke or gas.

Also, a loss of smell can interfere with the care of pets. I recently heard the sad story of an older woman who took her dog to the vet because she believed the pet had not toileted in 4 days. The truth was that Fido indeed had not done any business outside when she put him out. This was because Fido had already relieved himself inside the house under her bed for those four days. Not good.

More

We hope for enjoyment of life, health, and meaningful tasks everyday of our lives.  Hopefully, with an awareness of these issues, we can make adaptations to continue our pursuit of these and to continue to smell the roses.

Copyright 2011 Maren Morgan.

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