Dear Annie: You printed a letter from "Wondering," who asked why older men smell bad, don't change their clothes and live in filthy homes. You mentioned it could be the lack of a female presence — someone who used to take care of these things.
My husband suddenly had this problem of a bad odor. He has impeccable hygiene, showering every day, sometimes twice a day. He wears clothing once before it goes into the laundry. We finally figured out that he was taking too much fish oil along with an antidepressant that had been increasing how much he would sweat. He still takes the fish oil, but at a much smaller dose, and the problem has gone away. My brother also had an odor problem, but I think it was due to smoking, poor dental care and forgetting that wool sweaters benefit from a trip to the dry cleaners every so often. He lived alone for 10 years after his divorce. His house was a total mess.
A gentle conversation with these men asking how they are doing, a suggestion to get checkups with their doctor to see if there is a physical reason and be screened for depression could help. Visiting the dentist may have been neglected. Say that you are telling them these things because you care about them. Offer to show them how to do laundry properly and say that they need to shower more. Take their things to the cleaners when you are going anyway. It can't hurt and it may be the first time these guys have had these gentle kindnesses done for them in a long time. Then invite them over for dinner, stink and all. Be a friend. — Wife with Sweat-Smelling Hubby
Dear Wife: Thank you for your compassionate and sensible response. Here's more:
Dear Annie: I was surprised that you didn't also mention that these men might be depressed, another reason for not caring about their homes or their hygiene. An acquaintance told me that several widowers he knows told her that what they missed most about their wives was the "nagging." — Squeaky Clean 68-year-old Single Female in Montreal
Dear Annie: My husband is 80 and has been the same way for years. He doesn't shower for a week, and then sleeps in his recliner in the same clothes. He doesn't even take off his shoes. When I tell him he needs a shower, he says, "Yes, I know," but doesn't do it. He says it is too much trouble. I don't get it — Living with Stinky
Dear Annie: Many older women also have an odor problem. I am a ballroom dancer in my 80s. Some of these women douse themselves with perfume instead of bathing, which makes it even worse. They are mostly widows and well-off. They buy $3,000 ball gowns, but don't bother to have their clothes cleaned. I avoid them whenever possible. — Enjoying the Music
Dear Annie: "Wondering" may want to suggest that his gentlemen friends have a smell test at their next checkup. It is not uncommon for men (and women) to have a decreased sense of smell over time, and it can indicate a serious illness. — Caregiver
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.