Do the elderly lose their sense of taste and smell as they age?
As people age they often complain about decreases–or even losses–in their abilities to taste a superb meal or appreciate a fine beverage. When people eat a meal, however, they often confuse or combine information from the tongue and mouth (the sense of taste, which uses three nerves to send information to the brain) with what is happening in the nose (the sense of smell, which utilizes a different nerve input).
It is easy to demonstrate this confusion. Take a handful of jellybeans of different flavors into your hand and move them about while your eyes are closed. With your other free hand, pinch your nose closed. Now pop one of the jellybeans into your mouth and chew, without letting go of your nose. Can you tell what flavor went into your mouth? Probably not, but you most likely experienced the sweetness of the jellybean. Now let go of your nose. Voila–the flavor makes its obvious appearance.
What happens when a person lose their ability to see/hear well?
The inability to see clearly, for example, can lead to a host of other problems, ranging from social isolation to injuries from falls. Such injuries may require hospitalization. Or worse, they may lead to serious health complications, which can cause further disability.
Likewise, an older individual with a hearing problem is more likely to become less physically mobile, less cognitively curious, less communicative and less social.