You know that smell in retirement homes and your grandmother's house? Mothballs and stale air may not be entirely to blame.
In a new study, researchers have confirmed for the first time that older people have a recognizable body odor that can't be fully explained by grooming, diet, or other environmental quirks. In fact, the study found, this "old person smell" is distinctive enough that young adults can more often than not identify an old person by body odor alone.
This isn't totally surprising. Scientists have known for years that a broad range of animal species-including mice, deer, otters, rabbits, and monkeys-undergo body-odor changes in adulthood, which may help the animals select suitable mating partners.
Humans have found better ways of screening potential mates, but like other animals, we may have once used age-related signals gathered from body odor to choose partners, avoid sick people, or distinguish kin from non-kin, says Johan Lundström, Ph.D., the lead author of the study.
Health.com: Why do I have body odor?
Lundström, a senior neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia, began wondering about the effects of age on body odor when he noticed that the so-called old person smell seems to be consistent across cultures.
As a child in Sweden, he often accompanied his mother to the nursing home where she worked, and he remembered a unique odor throughout the building. "I never smelled it again until years later, when I came to the U.S. and gave a talk at a retirement home," he says. "As soon as I walked through the door, that exact same scent hit me."
Later, when he described his experience to a Japanese colleague, he learned there's even a word for this smell in Japanese: kareishū.
Lundström and his colleagues designed their study, which appears this week in the journal PLoS ONE, to explore whether there's a biological basis for the smell.
Source http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/3 ... son-smell/
dlslith wrote:I work in a long term care facility. I would call the smell, decay. I smell it every day.
I spent a short while working in a psychiatric hospital on a long stay ward with psycho geriatrics...It smelt like piss, shit, cabbage and as you so eloquently put it Brer Slith, decay...
"Strange things are attracted to strange smells."
I suppose the reverse of this topic would be the strange smells around the new-born - talc, baby wash, cream, used nappies - aghh!
If you pop round to see a freinds new baby, you notice the different smell about the place straight away, though I suppose a new baby is a lot nicer than some poor old devil who smells like a urinal mixed with mothballs and hemorrhoid cream.
The horrible thought is we'll end up there one day.
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