Nothing strikes fear in aging baby boomers as the words “old people smell.” You know what it is. Maybe you smelled it in your grandparent’s home or the home of an elderly neighbor. (For purposes of this blog, elderly always means considerably older than me.) I remember it in my old Aunt Mary’s house – musty, slightly like perspiration, old clothes, like an attic.
It doesn’t come from being dirty. My sister-in-law’s parent’s home had it too. Maybe a contributing factor is wearing sweaters and wool clothes too long between cleanings but it’s not from not bathing.
I don’t know when it starts. It’s probably like other house smells. It starts so gradual that you never know you have it. With three cats, I always worry that my house smells like cats. Not enough to get rid of the cats but enough to buy candles, plug-ins, the reed thingies in the bottle – you name it, if it promises to smell good, I buy it. In our last renovation we built a room I call the “cat bathroom.” Yep, it’s enclosed with a cat door and has an exhaust fan and it’s located in the basement. Don’t let the basement part fool you, it is an upscale cat potty!
But I am not convinced so I ask unsuspecting visitors, “Does it smell like cats in here?” What good-natured visitor would tell me the truth? Of course I always pick visitors with pets or people like my brother who can’t smell anything.
If I wanted the truth, I would ask a child. They have a way of blurting out the most vivid truth in words that are not subtle. My grandniece Karen once told me my house stinks. Just like that. “Your house stinks.” Fortunately, I was considerably younger (so I wasn’t worrying about old people smell) and I happened to be frying cabbage at the time. At this point, she is too old to be that blunt or truthful so there is no point in asking her about the cats. Oh, yes, she also has cats.
Of course, maybe I really don’t want to know. Maybe it’s in the genes. My mother’s house never smelled of old people and she lived to see 75. Her house had wonderful cooking smells almost all the time. Maybe that’s the answer! Cook more, sweat less and don’t wear wool!