Do Old People Smell?
spray and wash, cream and rub, but you can't get rid of it - old person smell.
According to news reports this week, it seems that researchers with way too much
time on their hands have now decided to study body odor to see if one age group
has a different scent than that of other groups.
Naturally, the group that could be identified most readily by their scent was
old people. You have to wonder if this really science, or another way to
discriminate against elders, who are seen as annoying at best, useless at worst,
and the only obstacle between some deserving person and an inheritance.
Personally, I have to wonder about the reliability of people who have nothing
better to do than sniff jars with sweaty arm pads to check out the scent. I
mean, really, who in their right mind (except Rover) wants to sniff someone
else's dirty laundry?
Researchers have attempted to associate old people with old animals and allege
that humans have retained the primitive instinct of being able to identify
people by smell. Old animals are the less-fit of the species and, therefore,
avoided. I maintain that the reason old people are avoided is because the
elderly want someone to take them to the drug store, post office, and grocery
This study has nothing to do with the fact that old people sometimes
"leak." It is a different type of odor, caused by the interaction of
chemicals on the skin. Actually, the old people scent was not found especially
foul compared to young people and middle-aged people, not to mention groups with
garlic breath, old gym socks, and dirty diapers. Old people scent was simply a
different and recognizable scent, almost pleasant, according to sniffers.
Long acknowledged, but never proven, old people odor was
previously 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 external causes to blame and must admit that
"la phew is you."
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.
Even if you douse on perfume like the French, use enough bath soap to sink the
Queen Elizabeth like the English, or shower when you don't need to like
Americans, elders are still plagued by old person odor. It seems there is
nothing that can be done about it. The old person odor is said to linger
anywhere an old person has been, in a car, in an elevator, or in a room.
But I still suspect that a good deodorant might help.
Perhaps this old person scent could become a useful thing. Instead of showing an
AARP card for a senior discount, seniors can tell them to sniff their armpit.
Instead of having to dig up documents to verify age, when applying for social
security, old people could melt the nostrils of a civil service employee with a
whiff of a week-old undershirt.
It could also be useful for personal security. Why buy an alarm system or keep a
dog when there is an automatic personal defense system? An old person could fan
their scent toward the intruder and watch them wilt before their eyes as
memories of childhood, grandma, and sour milk cause their eyes to fill with
Like wisdom and maturity, an old person's smell should be a matter of
distinction - a gray badge of courage to show that one has lived long enough to
be respected. And if anyone fails to recognize that old person smell is whiff of
musk finer than expensive perfume or scented oil, the old person can always hit
them over the head with a cane - young whippersnappers.