A Sense of Ageing

Posted on May 31, 2019.

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We often take them for granted but our senses play a large role in our quality of life. Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – we use them, every second of every day including when we are sleeping! Our senses are critical to our survival in our environment. They help to keep us safe and alert us to danger. As we age our senses begin to change and it is not unusual to experience some deterioration in one or more of our senses, particularly sight and sound. This article looks at how our sense of sight and sound change as we age and how we can best preserve our quality life in the process.

All eyes on vision

From the age of 45 the muscles that control the size of our pupils and their reaction to light become weaker, meaning the pupils can shrink and it becomes harder to see in dim light. It’s a natural part of the ageing process and many of us will need to wear glasses or contact lenses to maintain clear vision. Other common eye problems and diseases can occur with age such as Cataracts, Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Cataracts is a common condition in older people and can be rectified with a simple operation. Glaucoma refers to damage of the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain and if left untreated can cause tunnel vision and eventually blindness. With early detection, complications from this condition can be treated.

Age-related macular degeneration is a term that refers to a group of degenerative diseases of the retina and according to Vision Australia, the leading cause of vision impairment in Australians aged over 40. Symptoms include a reduced ability to see objects clearly, difficulty reading despite wearing glasses, distorted central vision, dimmed colour vision and visual hallucinations.

You can minimise the affects of the above conditions or even avoid them altogether by getting your eyes tested regularly by a professional.

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Looking after our eyes

Regular eye tests are vital to the health of our eyes and in addition to the early detection of eye diseases, these tests can also pick up on general health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It is very important to make sure you are wearing the right glasses and as your eyes change over time, eye tests will ensure your lens prescriptions are up to date, improving your quality of life and minimising the risk of accidents and falls.

Besides eye tests there are many simple things you can do to look after your precious peepers such as leading a healthy lifestyle. Eating and living well can help your eyes in many ways. A balanced and healthy diet including a variety of vegetables and fruit can protect against some conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Exercise is also great for your eye health, stimulating circulation and oxygen and maintaining a healthy weight will decrease your risk of diabetes, which can also affect your vision.

A good night’s sleep is great for our eyes, continuously lubricating them and clearing them of any dust particles gathered throughout the day and if there are not enough reasons to quit smoking here is one more; smoking can increase your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Don’t forget your sunglasses when you are out and about as sun damage can increase your chances of developing cataracts.

Listen up!

As we get older, many of us notice a decline in our ability to pick up certain sounds or follow conversations. There are many reasons why we may experience hearing loss as we get older. External factors may be involved such as long-term exposure to loud noise but for many of us it is part of the process of ageing. As we get older the structures inside our ears begin to change, affecting their ability to perform their function. Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis – a common condition found in older people that often affects both ears equally.

Some health conditions that are common to seniors can also contribute to hearing loss such as high blood pressure or diabetes and even some medications can impact on the sensory cells in your ears and cause hearing loss. Many older people will experience hearing loss due to a combination of factors.

Hearing loss often occurs gradually so you may not immediately realise that this sense has been impaired and more often than not friends or family members will bring it to your attention.

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Seek help

If you suspect your hearing has declined it’s important to visit a health professional immediately. Visiting your regular GP or a hearing clinic is a good place to start.

While there is little we can do to prevent age-related hearing loss there are many effective aids and devices available to help you maintain your quality of life. From hearing aids and cochlear implants to Assistive Listening Devices such as amplified telephones and alerting systems, there are many hearing solutions available to make your life easier.

For more information on eye and ear health, visit the Health Direct website and the Vision Australia and Lions Hearing Clinic websites also offer great advice and information.

If a change in one or more of your senses mean you need a little extra help in the home, Juniper can help! For information on our home care services and how we can help you maintain your independence at home, call us on 1300 313 000 or visit www.juniper.org.au