How our senses change with age

Although there is great variability from person to person in how the senses diminish with age, here are some changes that are common:

Sight

Visual acuity, or sharpness of focus, tends to get worse with age. Cataracts, which can make vision fuzzy, are relatively common and usually occur later in life. Another age-related vision problem, macular degeneration, causes a loss of vision in the center of the visual field.

Hearing

Hearing loss in both ears (what doctors call presbycusis), increases with age, beginning between ages 40 and 50. However, many people over age 65 never experience hearing loss that interferes with their lives. If you find yourself often asking friends or family to repeat themselves, or if they suggest you may have a hearing problem, see your doctor. A hearing aid can help considerably.

Taste and smell

Taste and smell, two interdependent senses that aid in the enjoyment of food, become less sharp with aging. While the number of taste buds remains unchanged, reduced flow of saliva may lead to diminished taste. The sense of smell declines rapidly in your 50s. By your 80s, smell detection is almost 50% poorer than it was in your younger years. As these senses become blunted, food flavors and scents may become less appetizing. One way to make sure you eat enough is adding spices to increase the flavor of foods.