LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What age-related changes happen in vision?

• How does hearing change as people age?

• What age-related changes occur in people’s senses of touch and balance?

• What happens to taste and smell with increasing age?

B

ertha has attended Sunday services in her local AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church for 82 years. Over the past few years, though, she has experienced greater difficulty in keeping her balance as she walks down the steps from her row house to the sidewalk. Bertha is noticing that her balance prob­lems occur even when she is walking on level ground. Bertha is concerned that she will have to stop attend­ing her beloved church because she is afraid of falling and breaking a bone.

You have probably seen people like Bertha walk­ing slowly and tentatively along the sidewalk. Why do older people have these problems more often? If you said it is because the sensory system directly related to maintaining balance, the vestibular sys­tem, and muscle strength decline with age, you would only be partly correct. It turns out that keep­ing one’s balance is a complex process in which we integrate input from several sources, such as vision and touch, as well as bones and joints. In this section we examine the changes that occur in our sensory systems. These changes challenge our ability to interact with the world and communicate with others.