Sensory Changes in Aging Population May Impact Lifestyle
Both physical and psychological changes are a normal part of aging, but those changes don’t have to be debilitating. It’s important for people to be aware of differences in what is “normal” or “typical” in order to live a healthy, safe, and active lifestyle. Bayhealth Primary Care, Milford-Airport Road physician Olivia Castro, DO, offers some suggestions to help recognize and deal with the aging process.
- Have an annual physical. “It’s very important for people to have an annual visit with their primary care doctor to monitor changes,” she said. During each office visit, your doctor records data, and on subsequent visits he or she can monitor differences and variations to determine if there is a negative impact on your health and safety. In addition, a primary care doctor will be able to detect the onset of chronic health conditions, including diabetes, dementia, and heart disease, and offer connection to a specialist, if that becomes necessary.
- Some sensory changes are considered are a normal part of aging. Your doctor can order tests to determine if vision and sight changes, for example, are caused by aging or if there is disease state occurring.
- Get screened for fall risks. “Proprioceptors in our body change with age, and individuals will often experience falls, changes in balance, as well as dizziness. Simple things, like canes and walkers, can help reduce frequency of falls,” Dr. Castro said. Vision deficits can also cause falls, and some people might become more sedentary due to fear of falling.
- Some changes in typical sensory experiences may stem from other causes. “Some patients experience bitter taste and complain of decreased appetite with age. This can be due to depression, dementia, diabetes or even vitamin/mineral deficiencies,” Dr. Castro explained.
- Sensory changes may impact lifestyle in a negative manner. For example, a decreased sense of taste may lead to using too much salt, ultimately leading to an increase in blood pressure. Some elderly people may no longer recognize thirst, and they may become dehydrated. At any age, it’s important to eat adequate, nutritious food to maintain a healthy lifestyle; a loss of appetite could cause nutritional deficits.
- Sensory changes may impact an elderly person's desire to socialize with family members or peers. Social connection is important, yet conditions that can be addressed with simple devices, such as hearing loss or vision, might limit not only physical mobility – such as driving, but also lead to feeling uncomfortable around other people.
- It’s important for everyone to schedule an annual visit with their primary care physician, said Dr. Castro, adding that it’s even more important for senior citizens to be monitored by a professional.
If you're looking for a primary care doctor to help you stay healthy, visit Bayhealth.org/Find-a-Doctor or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) to be matched with a local provider.