Smells like old people in here! What gives?

Okay, since Uncle Cecil has already taken the liberty to discuss “new car” smell, what makes old people (in Europe and North America at least ) have that weird Grandma’s house smell? You all know what I’m talking about here-kind of a stale candy/powder/urine reek of senior citizens. Is this a function of the products used as people get older, like Polident and Depends, or is it symptomatic of the aging of human flesh?

I think you knod of nailed it on the head, it’s just different products old people use.

(fuck cheese, that’s pretty funny)

Can’t speak for y’all, but my future grandmother-in-law smells like roses. :slight_smile: I know, it’s perfume, but it’s really comforting and kicks the hell out of that other “old-person” smell.

P.S. Great name, Chingaqueso! No te chingues…

Generous use of mothballs is a common trait that I have encountered.

A lot of older women (I’m talking 80+ here) get their hair done professionally, once a week (I know a few middle-aged women who do it too), and so don’t wash their hair every day, because they don’t want to ruin the 'do. Maybe it’s unwashed-head smell.

Part of the smell in retirement homes is cleaning fluids. They use heavy-duty cleaners like ammonia, which leave a nasty smell on the floors, etc.

Just a WAG, baecuase I’ve never treally considered it before, but since sight, and hearing downhill with age its possible that sence of smell does as well. Maybe things arn’t noticed and dealt with until they are in larger concentrations than a house cleaned by a more nasally senisitive younger person.

Ugh. My grandmother reeks of smoke because she’s a chain smoker who smokes the cheapest, smelliest cigs on the planet.
My grandfather gave my parents his old stereo and when my mom went to clean it, the rag was BROWN ALL OVER from the tar that had built up over the years…

There was an old gal who lived on my block with her mother (who herself had been born when Lincoln was in office) and a thousand old National Geographics. I was reminded of their house when I read Johnny Rotten’s autobiography where he describes that musty smell as “old ladies’ fannies.” Well, I guess I’ll have to take his word for that, at least for another 35 years or so.

OK, I seem to remember reading somewhere (like Newsweek or U.S. News & World Report or some other useless info rag) that that “old-person-smell” was attributed to a chemical that our bodies manufacture more of as we get older. By the time we become Sr. Citizen age we’re making so much of the stuff it produces an “odor”.

I wish I had the article (I did an internet search on a bunch of medical sites and Newsweek) and plugging “old person smell” into a search engine reeks havoc on your results. Anyone out there know the name of this chemical?

I think a lot of it is just age. The furnishings take on the cooking smells, body smells, stale air, pets, sickness, etc. that has accumulated over a lifetime. I do think old people have a certain distinct odor about their persons. Not nasty…just different. Kind of metalic. Maybe it’s the meds they are on. Maybe they think we smell funny too. :slight_smile:

Someone mentioned about older ladies getting their hair shampooed once a week…and that’s not to mention that most of them perm their poor old heads to death. :slight_smile:

My son jokingly calls old ladies “Q tip heads.” I should have thumped his head for his impudence, but it was kinda funny. Of course he would never say this to any old lady…just a family joke.

All those reasons.

And let’s face it. Many older people (at least the ones I know) don’t bathe as often as they used to (or need to).

All kinds of reasons for that – my mom has trouble getting in and out of the tub, and the shower doesn’t work much better for her. It ruins her hairdo (the once-weekly thing) and she’s also afraid of falling.

And they’re cold, old people. Mom installed an extra heater in the bathroom, and it has to be about 90 degrees in there before she’ll get naked.

Auntie is right. And in Europe, they all smell, old, middle aged and young.

As someone who frequently attends old people in their homes during times of personal crisis, I can conclusively tell you that the “old person smell” is entirely related to a lack of personal or domestic hygeine.

Of course, we all smell somewhat rank when we wake up in the morning, having spent all night in bed, often perspiring. That’s why we change our bed linen often. But the smell of unwashed person or unclean house (often the two mingle together to become a potent odour) is something that transcends all races, age groups and cultures. It gets even worse if the house is inhabited by unwashed pets, particularly dogs.

Incidentally, the “old lady smell” is often a precursor to a urinary tract infection - once smelt, you never forget it.

I think a lot of it must be the hair…I know that even when
I was in high school (early 70’s), in health class they recommended washing the hair once a week (eccch!). Not unless the hot water’s not working can I imagine skipping the daily wash.

So maybe older people still follow that once-a-week schedule, not because their getting old and sloppy, but because it’s all they’ve ever done. Then there’s stuff like
Brylcreem, which a lot of people in my parents’ generation use.

I used to assist elderly patients with their baths, so I agree with the answer about not bathing everyday. Many elderly people do not feel safe bathing alone, with good reason. As far as the urine smell, I think that is common because as you age your ability to hold your urine decreases. You also walk slower (usually) so you cannot always get the toilet before your bladder lets go. Hence, the need for DEPENDS. Unless you get your DEPENDS really cheap (those suckers are expensive) I don’t think you would be changing them everytime you wet just a little. One last thing, I seem to remember reading that the last sense to go is the sense of smell. Anyone?

> Part of the smell in retirement homes is cleaning fluids.

No, it’s urine.

The personal hygiene products are certainly a part of the smell. “Zippy Teen Shampoo” will be used mainly by Brittany Spears wannabes, so it’ll be associated with youth and chestiness, while “Snarly Geriatric Cream Rinse” is scrubbed on by the over-fifty set. Do any kids use Head & Shoulders any more?

Ever since I started using Burma-Shave shaving soap last year (thanks again, UncleBeer!), I’ve been smelling like an alter kocker myself.

When I was growing up, the “Gramda smell” turned out to be moth balls; it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized this, though. To this day, if I smell moth balls, I think of my Granny’s old basement apartment. :slight_smile:

I read the same article (or a similar one) about a chemical that your body produces more of when you get older, but I couldn’t find a cite either. Just wanted to let you know that you weren’t hallucinating…

I don’t think you guys are talkig about the same smell as I’m remembering, because you keep attributing it to a lack of hygeine.

I don’t recall the “grandma’s house smell” being unpleasant or funky; just being distinct and reminding you instantaneously of an old person’s house.