Celebrate Memories With The Sense Of Smell

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Valentine’s Gifts For Seniors

When searching for a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift for an elderly friend or relative, don’t settle on the same old box of candies again.

Instead, consider highly fragrant items that bring back happy memories, suggest Monell olfactory scientists Pamela Dalton and Johan Lundstrӧm.

The most ancient of our senses, smell is highly evocative because the brain connects odors to emotional memories.

“Odors can act as potent keys to open doors to the past,“ notes Dalton.

Dalton suggests taking a few minutes to think back on past conversations, trying to identify specific details mentioned about happy times or occasions. Then try to connect scents to those memories.

Or, off-handedly initiate a conversation to identify favorite smells and their emotional connections. Your great-aunt may mention lavender because it reminds her of a long-ago honeymoon spent in the south of France. Or your mother might wistfully talk about the smell of your father’s after-shave.

“The more specific the connection between odor and experience the better,” says Dalton, “because scent memories are very dependent on context.”

Because of their strong connections with emotional memories, scented gifts might be especially appreciated by older adults who have impairment of other senses.

Scent-infused gifts for seniors can include fragrant flowers, scented lotions and personal care products, herbal pillows, or potpourri.

Fragrant dried roses

Whatever you choose, it’s likely that your senior will appreciate a highly fragrant gift, advises Lundstrӧm, who notes that the sense of smell declines with advancing age.

“Seniors often rate odors as less intense than do younger people,” he says, noting that for some smells this decline begins about age 40 and continues across ensuing decades.

Lundstrӧm also notes that older women having a reduced sense of smell tend to have fewer social connections. “So if you know a senior who has doesn’t have a good sense of smell, Valentine’s Day might be an especially appropriate day to reach out.”