Wonder What It’s Like to Lose Your Senses? These DIY Activities Can Help You Understand

Wonder What It’s Like to Lose Your Senses? These DIY Activities Can Help You Understand

1 in 3 seniors living with sensory loss feel they miss out on experiences like hobbies, trips, and social events.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live as a senior with sensory loss? Try some of these exercises at home. They are meant to spark empathy for the challenges seniors with sensory loss face.

1. Blurry or low vision – Imagine being unable to see the world clearly or living with blind spots or no peripheral vision. One in nine Canadians develops irreversible vision loss by the age of 65, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

Try this at home:

  • Check out this interactive tool to discover what it might be like to bake Grandma’s favourite cookies if you have cataracts.
  • Try this suggestion from the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, University of Nebraska Medical Center, to get a feel for what it’s like to experience vision loss such as cataracts. Fold a plastic bag four times and hold it in front of your eyes, then attempt to make out words on a paper or images in front of you.
  • Place Vaseline on eyeglasses to recreate the cloudy vision of those who have cataracts.
  • Stick masking tape on each half of an eyeglass lens to help empathize with someone who has glaucoma.

2. Muffled sounds – Consider being unable to hear a television show or conversation. Approximately 78 per cent of Canadians aged 60 to 79 suffer from hearing loss.

Try this at home:

  • Try to have an interactive conversation wearing earplugs.
  • Check out a hearing loss phone app or simulation to experience what it’s like to be living with hearing loss.
  • Say the phrase: “The five senses tend to decline with senescence.” Next, remove f, s, c and th and say it again. All you will likely hear is “e ive en e tend to de line wi ene en e.” This exercise shows just how easy high-frequency hearing loss might lead to delusion and confusion.

3. Loss of feeling – Contemplate what it would be like to experience numbness and tingling in the hands or feet. More than 20 million people in the United States have been estimated to have some form of peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage that often affects hands and feet.

Try this at home:

  • Put corn kernels in socks and try walking to better understand what it’s like to experience neuropathy.
  • Place cotton balls in the tips of plastic gloves. Now put slender wooden sticks or coffee stirrers in each finger and try to handle everyday tasks such as opening a pill bottle.

4. Tasteless meals – Think about your favourite food, how it melts in your mouth and what you enjoy most about the texture and taste. Now, imagine that you couldn’t taste that culinary favourite or you couldn’t chew. By the age of 65, 50 percent of taste buds are lost by the average adult.

Try this at home:

  • To simulate what it would be like to face dental challenges, place two unsalted crackers in your mouth and drink an unsweetened drink mix, colored water or weak lemonade. Eat the cracker without chewing to illustrate the decrease in dental health.
  • Smell an onion while eating an apple to experience how it changes the taste. Loss of taste can be an issue for those on multiple medications or being treated for diseases such as cancer.

5. Lost scent – Reflect on the smell of your favourite candle or the aroma of a much-loved recipe. A University of Ottawa and Sodexo study found sense of smell can diminish with age and impact the ability to taste.

Try this at home:

  • Since smell and taste are so closely aligned, try eating your favourite food or milling around your favourite candle while wearing nose plugs.
  • Cut up foods similar in texture such as apples, carrots and potatoes. Then hold your nose or wear nose plugs. Close your eyes and ask someone to put the foods under your nose. Try to identify those by smell.

To see what you can do to protect and preserve the senses, visit the “10 Things You Can Do Now to Protect Your 5 Senses” slide show.

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