Problems with senses may help predict older adults overall health and the ability to function.The five key senses are hearing, vision, smell, touch, and taste. Losing one's sense can cause serious health problems.
Researchers have mainly focused on what happens after people lose one or two of their senses. However, we know that losing more than two senses occurs frequently for older adults.
Until now, no studies have examined how losing multiple senses affects older adults. To learn more, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago designed a study to focus on just that. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Five years later, the researchers reassessed the participants who were still living to measure:
- Mobility (measured with a timed 10-foot long walk)
- Degree of difficulty performing eight key daily activities, including bathing, feeding and shopping for themselves; doing light housekeeping; and managing their own finances
- Physical activity, measured with a fitness tracking device used for research purposes
- Mental health status
- Overall health
Women, older participants, smokers, and people with more chronic illnesses had higher levels of disability than other participants.
After five years, the participants who had more sensory disabilities at the beginning of the study walked more slowly than participants who had fewer sensory problems. Participants who were obese and had high blood pressure and more chronic illnesses walked much slower than other participants. Women, minorities, and people with less education also walked much slower than other participants.
People with more sensory losses at the beginning of the study also had:
- Difficulty performing their daily activities
- Difficulty staying physically active
- Difficulty staying sharp mentally
- Overall worse health
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Increased risk for dying