A new study published in Neurobiology of Aging found that once a person turns 60, it becomes harder for them to distinguish between various odors, which could heighten their risk of poor nutrition and ingestion of dangerous chemicals.
The researchers studied 440 subjects, half of whom were younger than 45 and half older than 60. They found that the smells the participants encountered were easily distinguishable to those in the younger group, but they blended together in the older group.
"We found clear changes in olfactory sensory neuron responses to odors for those 60 and up," said lead author Dr. Diego Restrepo, director of the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "When we presented two different odors to the olfactory sensory neurons of younger people they responded to one or the other. The sensory neurons from the elderly responded to both. This would make it harder for the elderly to differentiate between them."
Family caregivers who are worried that their loved one is losing their sense of smell should look into retirement living communities, as the senior will be close to various heathcare facilities while being around their peers and maintaining their independence.