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Aging and Developmental Disabilities: Effects on the Senses

Hearing aid

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Everyone experiences age-related declines in their senses.

However, people with developmental disabilities may experience these signs of growing older at an earlier age than other people.

If you know what to expect, you can take steps to keep safe!

As you grow older, you may notice that some things become more difficult for you to do.

You may have trouble:

  • Reading small print in your newspaper.
  • Hearing music on your radio.
  • Tasting your favorite foods.
  • Telling when something is hot or cold.
  • Moving around quickly and easily.

These things happen because as you get older, your body is changing.

Your body changes in ways that cause a decline in your senses.

As your senses decline, it can become harder for you to:

  • See. 
  • Hear.
  • Taste.
  • Smell.
  • Feel.
  • Balance.

As your senses decline, you may be at greater risk of harm.

  • When you cannot see or hear as well, you may not know you are in harm’s way.
  • When you cannot taste or smell as well, you may eat spoiled food or foods that are not healthy.
  • When you cannot feel as well, you may get cut or burned more easily.
  • When you cannot balance as well, you may fall more easily.

As you age, your eyes and vision will change.

You may find that:

  • You have dry, scratchy eyes.
  • You cannot see things clearly.
  • You cannot see things that are very close to your face or far away.
  • You cannot see as well in the dark.

There are things you can do!

  • Visit your eye doctor and ask if glasses will help you see better.
  • Buy books and magazines with large print.
  • Get a night light for your bedroom and bathroom to help you see at night.

As you grow older, changes in your body can also make it harder for you to hear.

You may find that:

  • You have a harder time hearing when there is noise in the background.
  • You hear noises such as ringing or buzzing that are not really there.
  • You cannot hear sounds that are quiet.

There are things you can do!

  • See your doctor and ask if you need a hearing test, a hearing aid, or extra wax cleaned from your ears.
  • Ask people to speak clearly and slowly when they are talking to you.
  • Try to talk with people in quiet places. 

You may also have a harder time tasting and smelling than you did before.

You may find that:

  • You are not able to taste food, like sweet and sour items, as well as you once did.
  • You may not feel thirsty, even when you need to drink.
  • You cannot smell certain odors, such as smoke, as well as you could before.

There are things you can do!

  • Use more spices on your food, but avoid using more salt.
  • Make sure to drink a lot of water.
  • Check to see that smoke detectors in your house are working properly.

As you grow older, your skin’s sensitivity to conditions outside your body changes.

You may find that:

  • Your skin becomes dryer and thinner.
  • You cannot feel pain on your skin as well as you could in the past.
  • You have trouble staying warm in cool temperatures.
  • You have trouble staying cool in hot temperatures.

There are things you can do!

  • Use moisturizing lotion to prevent dry skin.
  • Ask someone to check your bath or shower water to make sure it is not too hot or too cold.
  • Check the thermostat or weather report when you are deciding what to wear.

As you age, it can also become harder for you to move and keep your balance.

You may find that:

  • Your arms and legs feel stiff or sore.
  • You have a hard time getting up when you have been sitting down.
  • You are not as strong as you were.
  • You stumble or fall more often.

There are things you can do!

  • Ask your doctor what exercises can help keep you strong.
  • Hold onto the railings when you are on the stairs.
  • If you use a cane or walker, make sure you use it correctly.

If you think your senses are changing, talk to your doctor.

  • Your doctor can tell you if the changes you are experiencing are normal or signs of illness.
  • Your doctor can give you advice that can help you adjust to these changes.

You do not have to stop doing the things that you enjoy!

By talking with your doctor and making some small changes in your life, you can stay safe and healthy while you age.

 

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Last updated on Mon, 06/14/2010 - 12:48