7 Steps You Can Take So You Don’t Smell Like an Old Lady as You Age

by | Aug 30, 2017 | AGING


Who wants to smell like an old lady? First of all, let me say that I mean no disrespect to older people. I am one. In fact, experts say the potential for acquiring the ‘old person smell’ (it’s actually a recognized term) begins as early as 40.

Oo-oo that SMELL. Can’t you Smell That Smell?

You know what I’m talking about, right?  The smell has been described as aged beer, greasy, cucumbers, old books, grassy, dull, or musty. It’s not like a gross, pinch your nose kind of smell, it just smells, well…old. It’s that indescribable smell you smell when you give Grandma a big hug. We call it “old people smell”, the Japanese have a word for it – “kareishuu” and have done extensive research on it.

What Causes It?

One cause, that is pretty much out of our control, is due to our aging skin. It’s a chemical thing. As we age, the oils and fatty acids that are excreted by our skin oxidizes more rapidly, and our older skin’s antioxidant defenses begin to deteriorate. When those excessive fatty acids mix with the air, it creates a substance called nonenal. Nonenal stinks.

Not having any knowledge of chemistry, my big question is…

Would taking antioxidants help slow down the production of nonenal? Click To Tweet

If anyone has any insight on this, I’d love to hear your thoughts! – just reply in the comment section below.

I Don’t Want To Smell Like an Old Lady. How Can I Fix It?

It is possible to somewhat decrease the amount of nonenal our body produces by trying to live a healthy lifestyle. You know, the norm…

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Regular exercise
  3. Healthy diet
  4. Not smoking
  5. Alcohol in moderation

It’s not only yourself but your surroundings that can contribute. Smells in your home can seep into your clothes and skin. Now those things we do have control over. Just being aware of them can be helpful to take steps to avoid them ourselves, or take action to resolve them if we’re caring for our aging parents or family members.

7 Ways To Get Rid of That Old Lady Smell

#1. Open Your Windows and Let Fresh Air In!

  • Older people are afraid that if they open windows they’ll forget to close them, making them vulnerable to intruders.
  • Older people don’t like drafts and seem to always be cold.
  1. PROBLEM: No fresh air can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold growth, which create smells.
  2. SOLUTION: Do a window and door check each night before going to bed. Wear a sweater and warm fuzzy slippers around the house if you’re chilly.

#2. Keep Your House Clean

  • Physical limitations may keep older people from thoroughly cleaning, or from cleaning at all. They may be embarrassed to admit to family, spouse or friends that they aren’t able to keep up with housekeeping.
  1. PROBLEM: Smells from spoiled food in kitchen. Dust throughout house. Mildew|mold & urine in bathrooms. Unchanged bedsheets full of dead skin, urine dribble, sweat.
  2. SOLUTION: If it’s not possible for the homeowner to clean, hire someone to come in once a week. If hiring someone isn’t an option, admit you’re not able and ask a family member to help. It’s important!

#3. Don’t Re-Wear Your Clothing

  • Older people aren’t as active and not as likely to break a sweat. Because of this, they feel that outfit they wore today is good for another couple days ‘because they didn’t get it dirty’.
  • They are very thrifty. Doing laundry less saves on soap.
  1. PROBLEM: A closet full of dirty clothes smells. Skin oils and leaked urine can permeate clothing. There are probably also shoes in that closet that need airing out. Stale pee and dirty, sweaty feet stink – yuck. Mothballs don’t fix the smell.
  2. SOLUTION:  Wear clothes for one day only. Air out or replace old shoes. Hang a cedar strip in closet to freshen it up.

#4. Brush & Floss Your Teeth, or Check Dentures Regularly

  • As we age, the mouth produces less saliva. Saliva cleans the mouth of food particles and bacteria. When your mouth gets dry, your breath gets bad. Older people tend to sleep with their mouths open, which also dries out the mouth.
  • Older adults brush their teeth less often and not as thoroughly. Saving on toothpaste? Dentures, common in older people, if not taken care of or don’t fit correctly, trap food particles and can cause infection.
  • Medical conditions such as acid reflux, common in older adults, brings bile and stomach acid into the esophagus creating a sour taste in the mouth.
  1. PROBLEM: BAD BREATH! Cozying up to grandma or grandpa for a kiss and getting assaulted with dragon breath is less than pleasant, and not something that’s looked forward to repeating.
  2. SOLUTION:  Make sure the teeth, tongue and gums are brushed thoroughly every day and night. Floss teeth. If wearing dentures, pay attention to the recommended oral care given by the dentist. Visit the dentist regularly for teeth cleaning and oral evaluation.

#5. Drink Lots and Lots of Water!

  • Water keeps our fluids moving. When we don’t drink enough, all our fluids become more concentrated (like canned orange juice before you add water). Our pee turns dark yellow and its strong odor stinks to high heaven. Our skin loses it’s moisture and flakes and peels. If we’ve eaten smelly food, i.e. garlic and onion, it seeps out our pores.
  1. PROBLEM: If our pee is smelly and we leak, it makes our clothes smell. Our skin will smell strongly of whaterever we may have eaten. It will also flake onto our clothes, carpet, bedsheets, etc. and if those things aren’t cleaned regularly, they’ll smell.

#6. Wash Your Body

  • Older people, especially men, aren’t as interested in bathing. Those interviewed give several reasons. Some get anxious when getting in and out of the bath, and are afraid of falling in the shower. Especially those who live alone. Others seem to think of bathing as something you do only if you’re going out somewhere. Since they don’t go out as often, they think they can shower less. They justify this theory by explaining they don’t sweat much and don’t do activities that make them dirty. They feel that sponging off occasionallly does the trick.
  1. PROBLEM: The problem is obvious, right? Dead skin, leaked urine, the nonenal substance on the skin, inefficient toilet cleaning. Yeah. A sponge bath ain’t gonna cut it.
  2. SOLUTION:  It’s got to be frustrating for older people because the fear of falling is real. It is widely known that most falls occur in the bathroom. And if they’re frail and alone, there’s no-one there to help them get back up. If this is the case, find someone to come to the home to help with a good scrubbing a few times a week and have them fill in with sponge baths the other days.

#7. Pack and Store With Care

  • Older people accumulate a lifetime of ‘things’. It’s hard for us to part with anything as most are associated with memories. Unless there’s an issue with storage space, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be allowed to hang on to those things.
  1. PROBLEM: Old clothing, books, papers, linens and memorabilia smell musty. Especially if they’ve been stored for a long time incorrectly. My mother-in-law saved old perfume bottles in a dresser drawer. The cloyingly sweet smell was nauseating.
  2. SOLUTION:  Repack. Wash clothing, then store between dryer sheets. Put dried lavender in breathable cotton or linen bags and add them to your storage containers. Set an open box of baking soda on closet floors, or hang a bag of cedar chips in closets.

If You’re a Frustrated Caretaker, Things To Keep in Mind…

It’s common for aging adults to experience loss of vision. So a clothing stain that goes unnoticed, or mold growing in the bathroom shower may just not have been seen, rather than a lack of concern that it’s there.

Studies also show there is a large decrease in older adults sense of smell. In fact, it’s shown that by your 70’s, you may have lost up to 75% of your sense of smell. So Grandma truly may not have smelled Max’s accident in the corner, and if her vision is impaired, she also may not have seen it.

At the same time, she may not be able to notice that she smells bad or that her house has an unpleasant odor.

We will all be old and struggling with our own issues in the not so distant future, so being patient and undersanding is important. We can only hope that someone will show us the same kindness and respect.

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: I Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

After researching this post, I was left with two questions I couldn’t find answers to.

Would taking antioxidants help slow down the production of nonenal?

For those of you who use Twitter, I created a “Click to Tweet” at the beginning of this article. Just click on it, and it will post to your Twitter feed. I’ve received answers to questions I’ve previously tweeted, and I’m hoping if enough of us tweet, we may get an answer to this one. If bumping up your antioxidant intake helps, I’m on it. Thanks!

Sometimes my over-curious mind makes even ME crazy. My second question I just couldn’t leave alone so I went on my own search was:

Is there a skin or bath product that is effective in combating that old person smell?

I discovered that researchers found that persimmon helps reduce the production of nonenal. The fruit and it’s extract has been used in Japan for years to combat body odor, and products containing persimmon extract are sold as an ‘anti-aging’ products. So off I went to find them.

Woo hoo! I found the persimmon soap, and there are tons of reviews saying it works beautifully. Now I just need to find someone to test it. Is there anyone out there that wants to avoid smelling or already smells like an old lady? Any volunteers for a chance to smell squeaky clean again? Comment below and you could become my guinea pig!

So until next time, peace out!

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