Senior Tastes Changing With Age
Our sense of taste helps us savor and truly enjoy the food we’re eating. Many seniors suffer from a reduced appetite in their later years, and one of the causes of this is reduced sense of taste. While it may seem like a minor problem, the lack of desire to eat that comes with a diminished sense of taste can lead to dangerous weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, frailty, poor quality of life, and a needlessly reduced life span.
Taste buds are the nodules on the tongue responsible for perceiving different tastes and transmitting that information to the brain. After age 50, the cells that make them up begin to lose their sensitivity and ability to replace themselves. Many older people experience the gradual loss of their sense of taste and believe there is nothing they can do, but the truth is that, depending on the underlying cause, consulting with a doctor may provide ways of coping with this issue.
Some problems with a diminished sense of taste are caused by disruptions of the ability to taste and smell, or an interruption in the transmission of taste and smell messages to the brain, or in the brain’s ability to interpret the messages it receives from the tongue and nose. Some common culprits include:
- Side effects of medications
- Head injuries
- Dental issues, such as gum disease
- Dry mouth
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Neurological disorders like dementia or parkinson’s
Although the minor loss of taste that comes with aging is unavoidable and untreatable, loss of taste caused by external factors can be treated or counteracted. Consulting with your medical provider is your best bet.