Sensory Function: Insights From Wave 2 of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project

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OBJECTIVES: Sensory function, a critical component of quality of life, generally declines with age and influences health, physical activity, and social function. Sensory measures collected in Wave 2 of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) survey focused on the personal impact of sensory function in the home environment and included: subjective assessment of vision, hearing, and touch, information on relevant home conditions and social sequelae as well as an improved objective assessment of odor detection. METHOD: Summary data were generated for each sensory category, stratified by age (62–90 years of age) and gender, with a focus on function in the home setting and the social consequences of sensory decrements in each modality. RESULTS: Among both men and women, older age was associated with self-reported impairment of vision, hearing, and pleasantness of light touch. Compared with women, men reported significantly worse hearing and found light touch less appealing. There were no gender differences for vision. Overall, hearing loss seemed to have a greater impact on social function than did visual impairment. DISCUSSION: Sensory function declines across age groups, with notable gender differences for hearing and light touch. Further analysis of sensory measures from NSHAP Wave 2 may provide important information on how sensory declines are related to health, social function, quality of life, morbidity, and mortality in this nationally representative sample of older adults.


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Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences

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Suppl. 2

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