Lowered touch sensation can mean you miss out on sensual pleasures, physical communication and intimacy. Touch can release endorphins, the body’s pleasure chemicals, and is good for your overall wellbeing. It lowers anxiety, improves mood, relieves pain, boosts healing and even calms erratic heartbeats. Using your senses helps to maintain them – here are some enjoyable ways to keep on touching.

  • BE KIND TO YOUR SKIN Older skin is more frail and has less protective oil. So use a soap free wash and moisturize well, all over.
  • STIMULATE YOUR SKIN This helps to retain touch sensitivity. The most sensitive areas, with more nerve endings than elsewhere else, are your face (especially your lips), hands (especially your fingertips), feet and neck.
  • ENJOY A HEALING MASSAGE It’s been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and depression helps with pain, stiffness and blood pressure control. Older people who have massages have better emotional wellbeing and fewer limitations due to physical or emotional issues than those who don’t according to a study of 144 people aged 60 or over.
  • INCREASE CON TACT If you have a partner, look at ways to boost sexuality and improve your sex life. According to a 30 years study men and women reaching their 70s today have more sex than previous generations and report higher satisfaction within their sexuality than those 30- years ago.
  • SHARE THE LOVE Compensate for reduced sensations by encouraging more cuddling.
  • GET A FURRY FRIEND If you live alone, think about getting a pet to cuddle so that you have some daily physical contact.
  • CHALLENGE YOUR BRAIN Exercises that stimulate your sensory inputs, called neurobics (brain aerobics), can activate underused sense pathway, boosting both sensation and brain connections. The idea is to switch routines, use different senses or combine sensations – for example, use your opposite hand to brush your teeth, get dressed with your eyes closed or listen to music while stroking something soft and silky.

  • Here are four handy ways to compensate for reduced sensations
  • Take extra care Don’t get distracted when using pans or kettles. Even a hot drink can still scald 10 minutes after it’s been poured.
  • Check yourself out Inspect your skin for injuries, particularly on compromises your circulation or nerve function. Look carefully and don’t rely on pain sensations to decide whether an injury is serious.
  • Get a thermometer Use it to check the temperature to help you decide what to wear, indoors or outdoors, rather than relying on sensing whether it’s hot or cold.
  • Turn the thermostat down Scalds from tap water are not that common, but when they occur they can be serious, and older people are more vulnerable. Setting the hot-water tank thermostat to a maximum temperature of 49oC (120oF) minimizes the risk.

    You are more likely to fall as you get older. This is partly because of changes to your sense of balance, touch and sight, and partly because your muscles get weaker. Each year, around one in three people over 65 has a fall, 5 to 10 per cent of which result in injury. And falls become increasingly dangerous as you get older, because your bones become more brittle and more likely to break.

    There are many reasons why this happens. Your sense of balance may be disturbed and your ability to sense where the parts of your body are in space diminishes, reducing your coordination and ability to tell where your feet are on the floor, or to move around with agility or confidence. Loss of touch and pressure sensation, especially in your feet, can add to the problem. As well as diminished balance and sense of position, various inner ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease can cause vertigo, dizziness or giddiness, as can stroke, low blood sugar and heart rhythm disorders. Arthritis and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease can also make it considerably harder to stand steadily or walk. And so too can side effects of medications for conditions such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. Drugs that increase drowsiness – including sleeping tablets and alcohol – can increase the hazards.

    Help yourself
    But there’s plenty you can do to cut the risk, such as safety proofing your home to avoid tripping hazards. But the number-one solution is exercise – exercise programmes to improve strength and balance reduce falls in older people by up to 55 per cent according to Age.

    You can compensate for reduced strength or lowered sensation by:
  • Building muscle mass with resistance exercises
  • Strengthening your bones by doing weight-bearing exercises.
  • Improving balance with balance training.
  • Improving flexibility and mobility.
  • Eating a bone-friendly diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, or supplements if necessary.
  • Taking care of your vision and hearing and ensuring any untoward symptoms are checked and treated promptly.
  • Having treatment for conditions that can impact on your senses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
  • Reviewing your medications to avoid drug side effects.
  • Asking your doctor about hip protectors if you are at high risk, to guard against fracture if you do fall.