The Five Senses Study

Sodexo and our Institute for Quality of Life partnered with the University of Ottawa’s Life Research Institute to deepen our understanding of seniors’ sensory impairments.

We set out to study the senses to ensure that our services have a real and lasting impact on residents around the world. Our goal is to improve quality of life. To do that, we must continually raise the standards for ourselves and our colleagues in the industry.

What we found is a return to what seems basic – our five senses – can create real opportunity for improvement. This study inspires new thinking, from simple changes to technological innovations, to ensure we continually raise the level of care for seniors.

  • Seniors with diminished vision may have difficulty distinguishing between similar colors. Using high-contrast colors helps them see better, which allows them to navigate corridors and see all of the food on their plates.
  • Eighty percent of people over 85 have hearing loss, which can separate seniors from important daily connections with others. Minimizing background noise from heating and air conditioning systems makes it easier to interact and be a part of conversations.
  • A diminished sense of taste can make eating less pleasurable. Preserving texture and enhancing flavors helps preserve nutritional intake. Almost as important as the pleasure of a meal are the social connections mealtime creates.
  • Robotic technologies are showing promise in care settings. The innovations, such as pet-like animals, are able to sense touch, sound and movement. They encourage multiple sensory interactions that help reduce stress and further stimulate social connections.

Our work on this topic continues as we build tools to measure and track a senior’s environment for sense sensitivity. We intend to raise the level of care for seniors at home and in long-term care communities. By creating sense-sensitive environments, we can minimize the impact of sensory disorders and improve quality of life for seniors around the world.