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Old People Smell: Why?

Sitting downstairs in Pumpkin Market for lunch a couple days ago, I overheard 2 interns from the hospital down the street giving a really hard time to one of their supervisors.  The guy didn’t sound as bad as one I had heard of who actually had an artery flopping around and spraying the surgical room with blood, but the 2 proto-M.D.’s were after him, mouthing off about him.

The culmination of their tirade was: He smells like an old person.

Since I am 73 years old, I am a li’l sensitive to these concerns.   I’m hoping that someone will tell me when and if this happens(or has already happened!), though I am not sure anything can be done about it.

It is common.  We can all remember walking into our elderly one’s homes, and smelling the “old person”, and maybe even have had the experience of smelling this elsewhere.

Last year I went to a concert at the Philadelphia Convention Center and smelled the “old person” smell. The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society puts on all kinds of great chamber music, including that event, the Johannes Quartet.

I arrived a little too late to select a good seat, though still 5 minutes before the concert.  As I walked down the aisle to the front to see if a seat was left down there, I smelled old people.  At the time I thought, these people wear the same clothes to every concert without having them cleaned.

But no. Since then I have been around old people who are meticulous about hygiene and still have that smell.

So, what is also going on?

I’ve been asking around.  One of the early answers was “dehydration, not enough water in the tissues”, from a fellow Rolfer™.

Today, back at the Pumpkin Market, Jude struck up a conversation with my dog Tito, and then with me. (I am used to playing second fiddle around my cute little Havanese.)

He says, “It is entropy, dead material is accumulating.”

Both of these answers have possibilities for prevention, I think.

Are we drinking enough water so that our tissues can stay hydrated? (One way to check this: what color is your pee (ok, urine)?  If it is lighter, it is better.  Then drink just enough water to maintain that color, even if your older bladder is talking.

Now about the dead matter accumulating. Are we still exercising? Still having some sort of bodywork that keeps the fluid tissue transfer system operating optimally for where we are?

There is a little old lady in her ’80’s who walks around this neighborhood with her walker every day.

SHE IS MY NEW HERO.  She doesn’t smell.


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. One thing I noticed in visiting my elderly parents is I think it was a fresh air problem.
    Because they had changes in body temperature issues – you couldn’t leave a widow open and let some fresh air in . They sit around in confined spaces and soak up all those old people smells. I agree it isn’t really hygiene.

  2. I agree that there is a fresh air problem. Even relatively young people can sit around in air with very little oxygen content in the guise of keeping the house shut up for heat or cold. Some have the smarts to let some air in and handle that with more or less clothing. One problem also is not wanting to run the airconditioning or heaters because of the cost, or maybe just the fear of the cost.
    However, the cost to the human body for lack of fresh air is not good. Smelly, too.

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