Thursday, 31 May 2012

#268: The Sweet Smell of Age

Who smells better?  Young people or older folks?

I read that headline today in the Globe and Mail and thought Gaaaagh...another reason why I don’t want to get any older!  An item by Wendy Leung was reporting on the results of a recent study conducted the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. The research, involving 41 young, middle, and older aged individuals, set out to see if it is possible to detect age by smell alone.   

Falling into line with popular perception, I immediately guessed that stinkier smells would identify the older research subjects.  But I was wrong!  The older subjects had a distinctive odour, but it was described as “neutral”.  Of the three groups, the young were the smelliest.

Whew!  At least that is one aspect of aging we won’t have to worry about.  But first we need to identify the factors that account for this phenomenon.  I don’t know about you, but I am all for smelling as neutral as possible as I age, so I would have liked more analysis.  In the absence of this in depth investigation, I've had to do some speculating on my own.  I think old people smell better because they:
  • experience less stress and therefore sweat less.
  • have more time to bathe and shower
  • make a concerted effort to avoid the smelly old-person stereotype
  • have more than the usual supply of cologne and bath salts, gifts from their uninspired children
  • change their socks and underwear regularly
(This last observation triggered an olfactory memory that supports the recent MCSCP findings.  While hiking in New Zealand, our party of four older adults shared a bunk room after four days strenuous hiking without access to showers. Still, the room didn’t smell too bad.  It might even have been described as "neutral".  Then it filled up with four more hikers, all young men.  Instant Eau de Locker Room.  But we weren’t their parents: we couldn’t say anything.  We could only open the windows, adopt mouth-breathing techniques, and go to sleep.)

Who smells better?  I had the proof all along.....


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