, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 188-196
Date: 22 Oct 2011

Is Loss in Odor Sensitivity Inevitable to the Aging Individual? A Study of “Successfully Aged” Elderly

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Abstract

Previous research suggests that the variability in odor detectability is large in the elderly population. Compared to young adults, most elderly demonstrate poor detectability although some show normal ability. To shed light on why there is this discrepancy among the elderly, absolute detection thresholds for pyridine odor were determined by the method of constant stimuli. Young adults (20–24 years) were compared with elderly (77–87 years) who were “successfully aged” with respect to medical health and cognitive ability. The results showed that these elderly and young adults had very similar mean detection thresholds for pyridine (105 and 100 ppb, respectively) and psychometric detection functions (identical slopes with increasing pyridine concentration). These results imply that deficits in odor detectability may not be inevitable to the aging individual and that factors secondary to aging, such as poor medical health status and cognitive decline, may contribute to deficits in odor detectability in normal aging.