Senior Senses: Smell This

 Senior Sense Smell This

Stop and smell the roses. While the phrase is a metaphor for enjoying life, the actual act of smelling the roses gets harder as we age.

As we get older, problems with smell increase. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly one-quarter of men ages 60–69 had a smell disorder while about 11 percent of women in that age range reported a problem.

Smell the Signs

Any loss in our sense of smell can hurt our quality of life. It also can be a sign of more serious health issues. A smell disorder can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. It can also be related to other medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and malnutrition.

Smell and Taste

Smell and taste are closely linked in the brain but are actually distinct sensory systems. True tastes are detected by taste buds. The loss of smell is much more common than the loss of taste, and many people mistakenly believe they have a problem with taste when they are really experiencing a problem with their sense of smell. A loss of taste or smell is diagnosed by your doctor using special taste and smell tests.

When smell is impaired, people usually have problems appreciating the subtle flavors of food, and say that food is less enjoyable.

Some people change their eating habits. Some may eat too little and lose weight while others may eat too much and gain weight. Either way, there may be a long-term impact on one's overall health. Loss of smell may also cause us to eat too much sugar or salt to make our food taste better. This can be a problem for people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Serious Side Effects

Research shows that people with a total or partial loss of smell are almost twice as likely as people with normal smell to have certain kinds of accidents.

The most common types of accidents in order of frequency involve:

    • cooking

    • eating or drinking spoiled foods or toxic substances

    • failing to detect gas leaks or fires

If you think you have a problem with your sense of smell, see your doctor.


SYNERGY HomeCare is the premier provider of home care services. We strive to offer our clients the highest quality of life and independence possible. Call us today for a FREE in-home care assessment (877) 432-2692.

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