Facts About the Sense of Touch

As we grow older, the sense of touch can undergo age-related changes too:

  • The skin has a decreased response to pain.
  • The skin also has a decreased response to temperature changes.
  • Therefore, an older adult is at greater risk for injury from accidents, burns, and hypothermia.

Learn to Maximize Your Sense of Touch

Finger sensitivity is much like the sense of hearing. Over time, you will gain awareness and learn to use your sense of touch to distinguish items and features of items.

The following exercises can teach you ways to pay closer attention to the information you receive about your surroundings from the sense of touch.

Use Touch to Guide You in Large Areas and Spaces

With someone accompanying you, move slowly through your house and ask yourself:

  • What textures am I feeling under my feet? For example, the carpet in the living room will feel very different from the ceramic tiles in the bathroom and the linoleum in the kitchen.
  • What textures do I feel on surfaces, such as the kitchen counter and desk and table tops?
  • Are you using your remaining vision to confirm the information that your other senses are providing?

Use Touch to Identify and Work with Small Objects

You can begin to increase your tactual sensitivity by holding and exploring almost any object in your home. You might find it easier to begin with something small and easy to hold, such as a shaver with a protective cover. (But, as with any electrical item, make sure it’s unplugged!)

Hold the shaver in your hand:

  • Can you tell which side is the top, the bottom, the back, the front?
  • Do you notice any ripples, buttons, or grooves on the shaver case?
  • Do they lead your fingers to a latch or a way to remove the cover or the mesh screen?
  • Can you find the holes for plugging the shaver into its power source?
  • Does it have a trimmer feature? Can you find it by touch?
  • Which parts are metal and which are plastic?
  • Does the shaver have brushes or bristles, any rubber parts, or other distinctive features?

Other items you can explore can include an alarm clock, a radio, or an unplugged toaster or toaster oven.

You can also collect several items from locations throughout your home and identify as many of them as possible by touch alone.

Most homes have a “junk” drawer, and this can be a good place to start. Sort the pens, pencils, twist ties, and string, and you’ve started on the road to increasing your tactile sensitivity. And there’s additional benefit: Good organization is an important part of managing your home!