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Do old people smell?


This topic stinks to high heaven but with so many reports written about the “old-person smell” lately, it has to be brought out of the closet and carefully analyzed no matter how offensive it might seem. In these studies, old is considered to be 70 years of age and up.

“Old-person smell” is a real thing and it’s not just due to mothballs or a musty house. Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia confirmed elderly people really do have a distinct scent, so recognizable in fact, that other people can identify them by body odour alone. This is widely misunderstood. It is not poor hygiene but rather a component of body odour that manifests itself in older individuals.

I really don’t know why it matters whether old people can be recognized by their scent. Surely there are more reliable clues, like wrinkled skin and white hair, or the fact that a person has a walking cane, hearing aid, tri-focal glasses and drives only on Sundays, weather permitting.

Does this mean, no matter if I took a shower this morning or haven’t had one in three weeks, I would still be recognized, if not by sight, but from my elderly scent alone? To be honest I haven’t noticed anybody of any age that smells bad, at least in the Valley. The subway trains when living in Toronto were another matter. Horrible smells on an overcrowded subway car become just a part of life’s journey even though breathing in body odour is definitely uncomfortable. It can prompt some riders to get off three stops early and walk through the bitter cold instead. It’s suck it up or try to move away from somebody because of their stench, which is not an easy thing to do with everyone packed in like sardines.

I never worried about being malodorous before but since I heard of these suppositions and not to offend the many I hang out with, I began using exotic sprays and rubbing on creams, the names of which I’d never heard of. Then off to my “tester” to get the result. However nothing appeared to change so I stopped all the pretence and accepted I was what I was, rancid or not.

Interestingly, despite its uniqueness, and contrary to the stereotypes, the old person smell isn’t bad at all. In fact professional sniffers have stated, “we found middle-aged men’s smell as the yuckiest and most intense while the old person smell as the most pleasant and least intense.”  

Researchers have too much time on their hands if they devote valuable time studying age groups to determine if each smells differently than one another! Their research is attempting to allege that humans have retained the primitive instinct of being able to identify people by smell since the time of Neanderthals. Is that really so important to the average Joe?

Maybe an old person’s smell should be a matter of distinction, earning them a grey badge for courage like having lived long enough to be respected by others just as they would be for their wisdom and courage. And if anyone doesn’t recognize that old person smell as a scent finer than an expensive perfume or the bouquet of summertime that follows them from place to place then that old person can always hit them over the head with a cane.

It has finally been acknowledged that it was only a myth that old people’s odour was thought to come from old musty surroundings, failure to bathe, and not being able to remember whether one had a bath or not. Now thanks to science, oldsters no longer have the external causes to blame and now can proudly proclaim that they smell better than all those younger people.

I now understand the reason some old people are avoided is nothing to do with smell at all but more likely that they want someone to take them to the drug store or grocery shopping. Remember though, these elders are contributing much to society. They may be annoying at times but they could be the one obstacle between you and an inheritance.