Senior Senses: Taste Test

Did you know that of our five senses, taste is the most robust? Normal aging does not seem to affect our sense of taste. While there is a small change in taste in people over 60, most will not notice it.

Our sense of taste is governed by our taste cells which lie within our taste buds. Your taste buds aren’t just on your tongue, they are also on the roof of your mouth and the lining of our throat. . At birth, we have about 10,000 taste buds. After age 50, we start to lose taste buds.

Smell and taste go hand-in-hand. When people have a problem with taste, they are really experiencing a problem with smell. It is common for people who lose their sense of smell to say that food has lost its taste. In the elderly, there is a normal decline in the sense of smell and the taste of food shifts.

Taste Test

You can test this out for yourself. Try holding your nose while eating fruit. You will be able to distinguish between its sweetness and tartness, but you won’t be able to identify the fruit flavor. That’s because the flavor is mainly detected by our sense of smell as aromas are released during chewing.

Taste can have a significant impact on an older person’s life. Because taste affects the amount and type of food we eat, when there are problems with taste, a person may change his or her diet. Some people may eat too much and gain weight while others may eat too little and lose weight. A loss of appetite, especially in older adults, can lead to loss of weight, poor nutrition, weakened immunity, depression, and even death.

Taste disorders are uncommon. When a problem with taste exists, it is usually caused by medications, disease, some cancer treatments, or injury.

Nip It in the Taste Bud

Many older people believe that there is nothing they can do about their weakened sense of taste. If you think you have a problem with your sense of taste, see your doctor. Depending on the cause of your problem, your doctor may be able to suggest ways to regain your sense of taste or to cope with the loss of taste.