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Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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Old People Smell....

Do Old People Smell?

You can 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 shopping.

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 tears.

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.

Copyright 2012 Sheila Moss

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