Learn to Use Your Sense of Smell to Help You Cope with Blindness and Vision Loss

Facts About the Sense of Smell

As we grow older, there is a general reduction both in the sense of smell itself and in the number of smell "receptor cells" in the nose:

  • Older persons do not perform as well as younger persons when identifying the odor and taste of food.
  • Older persons tend to rely on appearance and texture to identify and enjoy food; therefore, poor nutrition can be a problem.
  • There is a reduced sensitivity to concentrated smells and a diminished reaction to unpleasant smells; therefore, therefore, it may be difficult to determine if food is spoiled or if the gas stove is leaking.

Practice Ways to Maximize Your Sense of Smell

photo of Jimmy Durante, Schnozzola

Jimmy Durante, the
beloved "Schnozzola":
A man who made
the most of his nose!

Throughout the day, learn to pay attention to the various smells and odors that you encounter and begin to associate them with where you are and the activities that you're performing in that location.

  • What smells may indicate that you're in a specific area of your home?
  • Are you near a friend who wears a distinctive perfume?
  • When choosing flowers for planting or arrangements, be aware of the different fragrances, textures, and color contrast.
  • Try to tell the difference between the smells from differently-shaped containers throughout your home: liquid soap, liquid detergent, soda, liquor, wine, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard, for example.
  • If you have low vision, are you using your remaining vision to further confirm the details that your other senses are providing?

Personal Stories

  • Amy Bovaird: Mobility Matters
    As a person with retinitis pigmentosa, "Mobility matters. It allows me to join the rest of society, follow my interests and passion, and reconnect with my love for traveling. I don't have to stay at home fearing the dark anymore. I can live independently."

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