It wasn’t just grandma’s strong and antiquated perfume scent, she had an "old person" smell. A recent study in PLos One shows all old people have such a scent.
According to senior author Johan Lunström, a sensory neuroscientist, in a statement, "Similar to other animals, humans can extract signals from body odors that allow us to identify biological age, avoid sick individuals, pick a suitable partner and distinguish kin from non-kin.”
The Atlantic reported on study researchers' conclusion that “young people aged 20-30 are able to accurately guess when a scent comes from an elderly individual aged 75-95. While study participants were also able to determine when a smell was associated with someone in middle age or in their youth, they were much better at smelling old people than young people.”
“But different, as we all learned in elementary school, doesn’t necessarily mean bad,” reported Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post. “Old people actually smell really good, it turns out, especially when you compare them to younger counterparts.”
“All this indicates that humans' ability to navigate their social worlds is far more complex than commonly thought,” reported Amina Khan at the Los Angeles Times. These recent studies provide “the first look at humans' ability to gauge age on the basis of smell — even when they aren't aware of it.”
Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.