New audit tool paired with real-world solutions gathered by researchers helps long-term care communities create “sense-sensitive” environments for seniors with hearing, vision, smell, taste and touch impairments

Sodexo, world leader in quality of life services, and the University of Ottawa Life Research Institute today released the first comprehensive study of how the five senses impact quality of life for those living in long-term care communities. All five senses can diminish as we age, and “How and Why the Five Sense Matter for Quality of Life: A Guide for Long-Term Care Communities” reveals the importance of understanding sensory impairments when creating environments for seniors, whether at-home or in a long-term care community.

Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that the rapid growth of the world’s senior population, minimal awareness exists regarding the negative effects sensory impairments have on seniors living in long-term care communities. In fact, 94 percent of people will experience diminishment of at least one of their senses as they age.

With this reality in mind, the Sodexo-uOttawa study presented strategies for creating “sense-sensitive” environments that will facilitate person-centered care for seniors. For example:

  • Seniors with low vision may have difficulty distinguishing between similar colors, so long-term care communities might use high-contrast colors to help them see different items and areas.

  • Sense of smell can diminish with age and impact the ability to taste. Creating an open kitchen area helps residents better smell food—which can stimulate appetite.

  • Hearing impairment can make participating in conversations difficult. Minimizing background noise from heating and cooling systems, equipment and cleaning services to may make it easier for seniors to hear others.

“Good care must begin with empathy,” said Marc Plumart, Sodexo CEO of Healthcare & Seniors Worldwide. “This study helps senior-care managers put themselves in the shoes of their residents to understand how they experience the world—which is different for those with diminished senses. By understanding their needs, they can design services and environments to improve quality of life.”

In addition to the guide, the research team developed an audit tool to help long-term care communities assess and improve their level of sense-sensitivity. This tool is a useful, practical way to gauge quality of life through resident perceptions, physical environment, and existing policies and procedures. The audit includes a series of questions targeting residents, family members, clinical, technical and administrative staff.

“Healthcare today is complex, but many answers lie in taking care of people’s needs—and how these are affected by their diminishing senses,” said Hélène Perrault, Professor and Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Ottawa. “This guide and audit tool will give users benchmarks and a strategy to track the impact of sensory loss on quality of life.”

“The guide and audit tool produced by our research collaboration demonstrate clearly the value of genuine engagement between Sodexo and leading researchers.” said Thomas Jelley, Vice President of the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life.  “It’s been a privilege to broker and support this partnership with the University of Ottawa.”

To download the study “How and Why the Five Sense Matter for Quality of Life: A Guide for Long-Term Care Communities” visit


To read the full version of the press release, please download the PDF.

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