Yes, ‘old person smell’ is a thing – but what causes it and can you neutralise it?


Why does evolution create this unique odour in seniors? And yes, it’s a thing. Even the Japanese have a word for it.

You don’t have to have a canine’s superior olfactory system to know that we emit different odours at different stages of our lives. Babies, for instance, naturally smell pleasant even as they produce explosive diapers and regurgitated milk. During puberty, it’s what smells like teen spirit – usually reminiscent of onion and sweat – that is likely to be the scent du jour.

Your personal smell-scape changes again in your senior years and it’s not because you’ve adopted a new cologne or perfume. We’re talking about the “old person smell”, which you might have caught whiffs of in the just-vacated MRT seat, lift, taxi interior or if you live with elderly parents or grandparents: An amalgamation of Axe brand oil, moth balls and an unmistakable greasy, grassy odour.

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