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Don’t Lose Your Senses As You Age, We Only Have 5 of Them

5senses3 Well it’s happening, I’m seeing signs of my age… and I don’t like it. Of course, who does? But the reality is that nature has a very effective way of reminding us. Our senses dull, pun intended. We only have 5 senses and the order in which they go depends largely on genetics, but also on the life we’ve led. For example, let’s say you are (or were) a construction worker for the city. What do you suspect would be the first sense to go? It might be your hearing, especially if you’re working a lot outside with heavy machinery.

Whatever of the 5 senses you’re prone to lose first, fear not, there are ways to stave off the impending degradation due to aging. Let me break it down for you.


In my previous life, I worked in the music industry for Barry Gordy and Motown Records. As you can imagine, I was fortunate enough to go to some pretty great concerts in my day. All of them were loud. Oh well, that’s just how it goes. Here’s the problem, the tiny hairs in your ears that send signals to your brain don’t regenerate. This leads to hearing loss. Hearing loss can accelerate the shrinking of your brain which can lead to dementia. Also, because the hairs affect balance, you’re more likely to experience falls. Pretty rough stuff.

What should you do:


  • Wear foam earplugs or protective head phones around loud noises.
  • Watch your weight, blood sugar level and blood pressure to keep the tiny arteries that fuel hair cells in your ears healthy.
  • Try a hearing aid. Hearing aid users scored better than nonusers on cognitive and memory tests


“Alright, so sometimes it’s hard to see road signs when I’m driving”, or “I get headaches when I read.” Sound familiar? Well, focusing up close gets more difficult as the eye’s crystal-clear lens stiffens and muscle fibers that control it weaken. Even worse, Rates of glaucoma double between ages 45 and 55, and the risk of cataracts triples.

What Should You Do:

  • Exercise maintains blood flow to the eyes.
  • Sleep keeps eyes lubricated and helps remove irritants.
  • If you need corrective lenses and have no signs of cataracts, you may be a candidate for refractive surgery


This is a sense I never worried about losing, but sure enough it happens. As a matter of fact, 30% of people in their 50’s say their sense of touch is poor. Crazy right? Aging can affect sensors in joints, muscles and tendons, as well as skin. Furthermore, your ability to detect pain, heat and cold weakens as your sense of touch declines. Now a part of me thinks, “Cool, I won’t feel pain as easily.” Might make for a great party trick. But the damage when you grab that hot pan on the stove is still being done whether you feel it or not.

What Should You Do:

  • Move as much as possible. The more your body has the experience of moving in space, the more those receptors will stay active and useful.
  • Wearing tight fitting clothes will stimulate touch receptors.
  • Be generous with physical affection, like hugging, kissing and well…you know.
  • Get massages.   Ummm, OK!


Nerve endings located high in your nose, are responsible for processing smells. Unfortunately, they wear out and die. Has a smell ever brought you back to a time and place so vividly that it’s like you are there? That’s because aromas travel directly to the part of your brain connected to memory and emotions. 20% of those 70 and over can’t detect the smell of smoke. You can see the potential dangers. Our sense of smell is a powerful one that I’d really hate to lose.

What Should You Do:

  • A casual drink is OK, but excessive use of alcohol will cause a problem.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid fumes from cleaning products.
  • Train yourself to remember smells by gently sniffing and identifying familiar scents every day.


My favorite sense of all! Responsible for my many cravings and late night binges, taste is certainly a highlight. Here’s the problem. You may not even notice that you’re using extra salt on your steak, or more than usual amounts of dressing on your salad. For that matter, you could easily be indulging in deserts with much higher levels of sugar. This can lead to obesity and diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes. Some ailments, including upper respiratory tract infections and rheumatoid arthritis, can also affect taste sensitivity. So what’s the answer?

What Should You Do:

  • Beware of treatable health conditions such as high blood sugar, infections and inflammatory bowel disease.  These can all be addressed with careful monitoring of food intake.
  • If you suffer from dry mouth, review your medications with your doctor.
  • Reach for more complex flavors from healthy foods.

The bottom line is that although aging can affect our 5 senses, there are things we can do to protect them from serious degradation. In other words, we can age gracefully.

If you’d like to stay connected, you can find Toni Patillo on, twitter: @tonipatillo and email: toni(at)tonipatillo(dotted)com(dotted)