Sensory Decline Increases Clutter

The senses of smell, taste, vision, hearing and touch are taken for granted by many. However,  as one ages,  some sensory decline may occur. I recently gave a presentation in which I discussed sensory decline and it’s effect on clutter and disorganization in relationship to the aging client.

Smell and Taste

  • Doesn’t smell rotting food/trash
  • Doesn’t smell mildew or dirty laundry
  • Unsure if perishable food is “good”

Thirty percent of American’s over the age of 70 have experienced some form of problem with their sense of smell.  Problems with taste, although less common, often appear in older adults.


  • Doesn’t see expiration dates on products clearly
  • Doesn’t see “spills” around toilet or kitchen sink
  • Mail processing takes longer due to changes in vision
  • Doesn’t see dirt or dust

Approximately one in three adults over age 65 have vision reducing eye disease.


  • Doesn’t hear sounds of  invasive pests in attic or basement
  • Doesn’t hear dripping pipe or faucet
  • Doesn’t hear warning beep of household appliance or timers

One third of adults between ages 65 – 75 have some form of hearing loss.


  • Unsure if item is too hot
  • Hard to pick up small objects or physically sort small objects
  • Increased incidences of  cuts or scratches because client does not initially feel sharp edges, chipped dishware, or broken items on floor

Keeping The Clutter- Hoarding Scale in mind, these issues are especially important to explore when working with aging Level II – Level V residential client homes.

PS – check out my presentation on Seven Types of Residential Households



Filed under Client Management Strategies, Knowledge, Organizing, Techniques

2 responses to “Sensory Decline Increases Clutter

  1. Fred

    I viewed Terry’s excellent presentation on the Seven Types of Residential Households. I might add that there is another common user of such information, and those are adult children of elderly parents. Due to the very issues of clutter that Terry discusses above, the elderly are put at greater risk by any clutter because it increases the chance of tripping and falling. A broken hip or other broken bone of a frail elder can in effect be fatal, because their chances of recouping and mending are so small. If the elder is living by themselves, then the challenge becomes to induce them to move to a more suitable living residence such as assisted living. I’ve personally known two cases where the children forced the parent – against their volition – to move out of their long-term residence such as a house. Although the children may have had good intentions the results were disastrous. The parent then only lasted a few months at the most in the new assisted living facility or nursing home. However, if the elderly parent can be convinced it’s in their best interest to move to a residence with more appropriate care where they won’t be the victim of clutter, falling, burning down the house, being unattended in a medical crisis, etc., then the experience is likely to be positive. It’s best for the elder to relocate to a care facility near their children who can advocate on their behalf. We let our mother choose to go to assisted living even though she had been adamantly opposed to it. Now she loves it, is near my sister, and goes to all the activities. Her life has also been saved when she fell, had heart failure, etc. where they could provide prompt attention. All clutter and food preparation is taken care. The children and the elderly parent have much greater peace of mind. The problem is how to get the stubborn elder whose mind is made up to move to a more appropriate care facility and help them realize it’s in their best interest when they are truly no longer capable of caring for themselves.

  2. Terry,

    Great article… simple to read and understand.
    I’m going to share this with my ‘Senior’ clients.

    Warm Spring Socks,

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