If it’s yellow, let it mellow

If you’re over the age of 50, there’s a good chance you’re more money-conscious than many younger folk. If you’re also environmentally-conscious, the two attributes could meld together when it comes to flushing the toilet.

Like others of your generation, you perhaps take literally the old saying, “If it’s yellow let it mellow….” Even with a toilet hippo or other water-saving device, flushing the toilet uses large quantities of water. On that basis, skipping the flush when you’ve just had a wee just makes sense. Who cares if other people think it’s gross?! After all, you’re busy trying to help save their planet.

Picking your nose

It isn’t only small children who pick their noses. A recent survey suggested that an incredible 91% of people indulge in the habit. And, with a statistic like that, it’s clear that nose pickers don’t just come from the under-tens.

Indeed, with more than nine in 10 of us presumed to be dedicated nose pickers, it’s clearly not a habit that dies off with increasing age. This, of course, means that even most over-50s must still excavate their own noses. Hopefully, however, they’re past the stage of wiping the results on the underside of tables…..

Reusing dirty jeans

Jeans – especially premium denim – don’t require washing nearly as often as you might think. One group of people who, overall, are well aware of this fact are the over 50s. They came of age in an era when it was almost a point of pride (for some people, at least) to have a pair of jeans that was so far away from their last wash that they could stand up by themselves.

No-one, including the over 50s, is advocating the “leave your jeans until they can stand up by themselves” as the gold standard for denim care. However, like many people, the over 50s appreciate that running a washing machine is costly – and so may have decided to cut out unnecessary washing.

Using your phone on the toilet

Unless they grew up in the sort of house that had books or a radio in the bathroom, the over 50s will have spent most of their lives to date managing to go to the toilet without entertainment. Clearly, however, all that changed with the advent of cell phones.

Like almost everyone else with an iPhone or other smartphone, the over 50s are guilty of taking their device into the bathroom with them. It’s not hygienic, it’s antisocial, and there’s always the risk of an unscheduled dunking in the toilet bowl.

Skipping out on showers

Some over 50s belong to a generation of people for whom a daily shower is not always the norm. For some, it’s because they grew up in post-war Europe when heating large quantities of water was often prohibitively expensive and frequently labor-intensive. For others, it’s because they come from a family that used other methods of keeping clean.

Whatever you might think, a daily shower – although very nice – isn’t a universal panacea, and foregoing it doesn’t automatically mean that someone is dirty. Strip washes at a basin can be just as effective, and use a lot less water.

Putting your hands down your pants

Perhaps there are some women who make a habit of this but mostly it’s men who find it oddly comforting to place their hands beneath the waistband of their pants. Moreover, it’s not a habit that goes away with age, although the average over 50 guy is much less likely to do it in company.

Ask them why they do it and, at best, you’ll get a blush or mumbled answer. Perhaps it helps keeps their hands warm on chilly evenings. Perhaps they like the feel of the fabric against the skin of their hand. Or perhaps, yes, it’s down to other even more pleasurable sensations.

Sniffing your armpits

Everyone sweats but some people do it more than others. This is largely a question of genetics and, by 50, you’d hope that most people have a handle of how sweaty they tend to get over the course of a day and what they need to do to keep it in check.

However, when it comes to sweating, life throws a curveball for many peri and menopausal women. Along with all the other physical changes, many women notice an increase in perspiration and a change in body odor. Learning to manage this might well involve the occasional armpit sniff.

Reusing underwear

No matter your age, there’s no excuse for not pulling on a pair of clean underpants at least once a day. You get a pass if all you’re doing is staying in the same pair you wore overnight while you walk the dog or run down to collect the mail. However, once you’re showered and ready for the day? That’s when you need to make sure your underwear is fresh out of the dresser.

Having problems keeping up with the laundry and regularly reusing underwear might be a sign that someone is struggling cognitively. Tread sensitively if you suspect this is happening to a relative but do consider that it might be time to seek medical advice.

Picking your fingernails

Nail-picking is a habit that often stems from childhood. If you’re still doing it by the time you’re in your 50s, there’s not much hope that you’ll change your ways – at least not without some serious effort. However, be careful! Picking at the skin around the nails can leave it vulnerable to infection, whether from bacteria or airborne fungi.

If you’re a nail picker whose determined to wean yourself off the habit, think about why you do it. For many people, it’s an almost unconscious habit. Getting into the habit of giving your hands something else to do – perhaps a fidget spinner or piece of play-dough to manipulate – can help.

Ignoring expiration dates

Many older people are more relaxed about expiration, use by and best before dates than their younger friends and relatives. And, sometimes, this isn’t a bad habit to have. After all, many of us regularly throw away food that’s still perfectly edible – with fruit and vegetables regularly topping the list of unnecessarily wasted produce.

If this describes you, do make sure you exercise more care where meat, fish and dairy products are concerned. As you’ll probably realise, these have the potential to make you very sick if you don’t pay close attention to their storage and expiration dates.

Picking dry lips

Some of us are more prone to chapped lips than others. If you’re a sufferer, it’s easy to exacerbate the problem by picking at your lips and peeling away pieces of skin. Try not to do this! The skin on your lips is some of the thinnest and most easily damaged on your body.

Chances are, it’s a case of “once a lip picker, always a lip picker”. However, by the time you’re in your 50s, you ought to have a few strategies that help. Perhaps it’s a soothing balm or remembering not to lick your lips unnecessarily.

Eating food that’s been left out

Waste not, want not! If you’re in your 50s or older, that might well be the mantra that you were brought up with. And, yes, just because food has been left out for a while, doesn’t automatically make it inedible. However, it does mean that you ought to exercise greater caution before tucking in or, worse, feeding it to others.

Take particular care with meat, dairy, and fish – and don’t ever eat rice that’s been left out after cooking. Bacillus cereus is a dangerous toxin that multiplies rapidly in rice that’s left standing at room temperature.

Peeing in the shower

Admit it – you’ve peed in the shower at one point or another, and maybe you even make a habit of it. There’s something about the warm, running water that kicks the bladder into overdrive, prompting you to urinate with little or no notice.

Although the pee is washed away with the water, it’s still a pretty gross habit… Even if you’re the person who cleans the shower, maybe keep this habit a secret from your family.

Using the same towel over and over

Some people think that not using a fresh towel for each shower is a gross habit. However, if you’re an environmentally conscious over-50, you’ll know that the ecological benefits of not washing linens too frequently outweigh any so-called grossness.

Before you cavil, of course towels need washing every few days – and certainly before they begin to smell. That said, ensuring that your towels are spread out to dry in between uses can mean that they don’t need laundering as often as might otherwise be the case.

Plucking your nose hair

As we age, we tend to find more and more hair popping up all over bodies. Many over 50s resort to pulling out the stray hairs in their noses or ears, using tweezers to yank the strands until their eyes water and the air is blue with choice language.

Don’t forget that there are plenty of nose and ear hair trimmers on the market – and these offer a more pain-free method of hair removal. Alternatively, most beauticians and barbers will not balk at undertaking the task for you.

Losing bladder control

Urinary incontinence affects many people as they age. For many women, the problem often starts early: after pregnancy. Menopause is another milestone as this is the point when “urge incontinence” frequently becomes a problem. Pelvic floor exercises can help, just as they can with post-pregnancy incontinence.

Later life incontinence is a third issue that can affect both men and women. It’s always worth discussing the problem with your health care provider as treatment can be surprisingly effective.

Shaving facial hair

It isn’t only men who have to deal with facial hair. It’s an issue for many women too. For some, the problem starts early, perhaps as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome. However, as time ticks on by, other women also start to notice that they have hairs popping up in unexpected places.

With post-menopausal mustaches being a step too far for all but the very few, most women resort to plucking, bleaching and depilatory treatments. Even if there’s enough hair to warrant shaving – and there usually isn’t – most women prefer other options in order to avoid a five o’clock shadow.

Squeezing spots

Spots aren’t only a battle that teenagers have to contend with; they can also affect adults, including the over 50s.

If you’re one of the unlucky few who never quite shook off teenage acne, you’ve probably found at least a couple of treatments and coping strategies. However, if you’re someone for whom the reappearance of spots was an unwelcome midlife “bonus”, you’ll need to investigate your options. For some, changing (or starting) your skincare routine can work. Others might need to seek medical advice. Just don’t squeeze your spots: it wasn’t a good look when you were a teen and it’s still not now.

Not removing your makeup

We’ve all done more often than we care to admit. Taking off your makeup at the end of a long day, especially where waterproof mascara is concerned, can sometimes be a chore too far. However, as you’ll doubtless have told any teen daughters, you should never go to bed without removing your makeup.

As well as saving your pillowcases and avoiding the early morning panda look, removing your makeup is an important part of midlife skincare. Cleansing, toning and moisturising with age-appropriate products can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines and dark circles.

Not washing your hair

Very short hair is easy: just jump in the shower and, by the time you’re done, your hair’s pretty much washed itself. Longer hair…..takes longer – and sometimes we just don’t have time to deal with it. Faced with the sandwich-style demands of kids and elderly parents – and not forgetting a busy job and a household to run – it’s tempting to skip a hair wash.

Fortunately, mid-life is when many women discover that their hair is naturally becoming dryer, and actually benefits from less frequent washing.

Picking at ingrown hairs

Everyone gets the odd ingrown hair now and then. Shaving, tweezing and waxing are all common causes, especially if clothes also rub against the affected area.

If you’re prone to ingrowing hairs, don’t be tempted to pick at them. As well as being a bad example for any watching teens, picking at ingrowing hairs is an open invitation to infection. Instead, gently scrub the affected area with warm soapy water – and ward off future problems by washing and cleansing your skin before shaving and then always using a good quality shaving gel.

Using outdated products

Perhaps you have a makeup collection to make any makeup artist (or young teen) green with envy. However, it’s really important to keep an eye on expiry dates. All makeup and skincare products have an expiry date on them, which usually runs from when the product is opened.

At best, ignoring expiry dates means using products that are losing their pigmentation or that no longer apply evenly on your skin. At worst, and especially where eye makeup is concerned, you could be applying a bacterial gloop that’s an open invitation to an itchy bout of pink eye.

Using a handkerchief

If you’re over 50, you are almost certainly used to using a fabric handkerchief. Perhaps you bought them as gifts for older relatives, and maybe even painstakingly embroidered initials onto. You might also have used them yourself and watched as your mom boiled them clean.

However, no matter how clean a fabric hanky is when it’s first tucked into your pocket, that cleanliness lasts only as long as the first nose blow. Reusing the same bit of cloth to wipe or blow your nose throughout the day is pretty unhygienic – even when colds and flus aren’t doing the rounds.

Using a water bottle that hasn’t been cleaned

It’s great that more people are rejecting single use plastic bottles in favor of bottles – whether plastic or metal – that they can reuse many times. It’s also good that so many people understand the importance of good hydration, especially older people who won’t have grown up with the concept of carrying a water bottle around with them.

However, a water bottle requires regular cleaning. What’s more, a quick rinse doesn’t cut it – even if it only has ever contained water. Washing up liquid and warm, soapy water is the way to ensure all traces of bacteria are eliminated.

Not washing makeup brushes

A makeup brush that’s in regular use quickly accumulates a coating of product, skin oils, skin cells and – yes – bacteria. And so, like anything that’s in regular contact with your skin, makeup brushes need regular washing.

Age is no excuse for not washing your makeup brushes. Anyone who uses brushes (or reusable sponges) to apply their makeup should wash those brushes at least weekly. Warm soapy water is generally all that’s required, although don’t forget to ensure the brushes are properly dry before using them again.

Napping – without washing your blanket

A good blanket is a beautiful thing. Of course, not everyone is a napper, even as they get older. However, blankets are just as good for cuddling up under on a chilly evening. Whether yours is draped over your favorite chair, a sofa or the end of your bed, it needs the occasional wash, especially if you use it regularly.

The need to wash your blanket should be a consideration when you’re picking out a new one. A wool blanket, especially a large one, will be trickier and more time-consuming to wash (or dry-clean) than a smaller one made of some other fabric. On the other hand, wool is warm, durable and better for the environment than most manmade alternatives.

Increased wind

Everyone burps and farts. Most children quickly learn that public displays of flatulence are unwelcome in polite company – and everyone’s happy……at least for a few decades.

Unfortunately, some people discover that they’re becoming windier as they get older. Despite the fact that they’re often recommended, charcoal tablets aren’t proven to be an effective remedy. On the other hand, dietary changes can help – although, sadly, there are no guarantees. Increased wind may sometimes be an unavoidable side-effect of the privilege of ageing.

Eating food off the floor

If you subscribe to the “three second rule”, there’s a good chance you’re in the fifty-plus age bracket. This “rule”, which is pretty arbitrary and not backed by any sound science, states that food that’s spent three seconds or less on the floor is still good to eat.

Lots of people are uncomfortable with food waste, but there’s a difference between not wanting to waste food and eating it at all costs. In most (if not all!) cases, food that’s ended up on the floor should go in the trash.

Not washing your face properly

A quick splash of water and perhaps a lick of soap just doesn’t cut it for most folks as they get older. Skin changes mean that once oily skins can become drier, while previously dry skin might do the opposite. Either way, your middle years may call for a change in face washing routine.

Failing to wash your face effectively makes spots more likely and, if you wear make-up, won’t give you the best canvas for application! You need to look after your skin, it’s yours for life.

Making a meal out of leftovers

As far as many over 50s are concerned, no food should go to waste – and that includes leftovers. While this is an admirable habit, especially in our environmentally-conscious times, it’s perhaps possible to take it too far.

Quite apart from the need to ensure that what you’re eating – or feeding to others – is safe from a food hygiene point of view, there’s also the palatability perspective. Sometimes, a smorgasbord of leftovers can be less of a treat than a chore.

Holding on to stained undies

If you’re the type of person who hangs on to stained undies, it’s less likely to be a side effect of age than of some quirk of character or personal situation. For some, it will be poverty that compels them to hold on to garments that others would throw away. For others, it will be because they really don’t care.

Another reason for someone holding onto stained garments could be due to dementia or declining mental faculties. Although it’s difficult to spot, it’s definitely something to watch for with older or otherwise vulnerable people.

Using perfume or cologne instead of washing

Who needs to wash your clothes when a quick spritz of perfume will have you smelling nice and fresh? Usually this is a habit that’s confined to teenagers. However, sometimes, even older folk will resort to the practice.

As a once-off, spritzing your clothes with perfume or body spray isn’t too much of a problem. However, don’t let it happen more than once. Just as you’d notice a teen whose appearance was always heralded by a waft of body spray, other people will notice the same thing about you.


Although adults of all ages can develop a tendency towards hoarding, it’s particularly an issue for older people. Partly, this is just a consequence of the march of time: an older person has had longer to accumulate (and not dispose of) possessions.

If you’re a hoarder, midlife is an excellent time to take the problem in hand. Decluttering can be more emotionally challenging than it is physically difficult but the results are often liberating.

Bleeding lipstick

It’s something of a cliche: the older woman with the bleeding lipstick. Whether she’s applied it outside her lip-line or allowed it to smear on her teeth, the result often invokes feelings of vague repulsion mixed with sadness.

Sometimes it might be a lack of hand-eye coordination that’s causing the problem, or simply a need for new glasses. The second possible cause is more easily resolved than the first. However, some women will be amenable to suggestions that they might change to a less vivid lip color, which can help make the problem less obvious.

Crusty candy

It’s a rite of passage – once you reach a certain age, you eventually start handing out pieces of candy to your younger relatives. Sometimes, these candies have been kept at the dark depths of your purse or pocket, picking up stray strands of debris and dirt. Yuck.

Worse, the proffered candy is rarely anything that your young relatives would choose for themselves. Boiled sweets, strange mints or aniseed flavors are all classic favorites – and, who knows, perhaps cunningly chosen to ensure minimal uptake of the offerings.

Sharing bath water

Ever conscious about saving those extra few dollars, some over 50s may share their bath water with their other halves. Although it may reduce the cost of your heating bill, it does mean you’re wallowing in the same dirt-ridden water as your spouse.

Whether that makes the savings worth it or not might depend on whether there’s another motivation for getting in the tub together. If so, perhaps a capacious shower stall could offer similar benefits?

Noisy chewing

Ill-fitting dentures or jaw muscles that don’t work as well as they once did can result in many noisy bouts of chomping. These can leave fellow diners cringing quietly or, if they’re particularly sensitive or suffer from misophonia, covering their ears in horror.

Although noisy eating usually can’t be helped, it’s nice to to be conscious of the problem. At the very least, perhaps you could try to avoid food that requires vigorous chewing or slurping when in company.

Dust, everywhere!

Failing eyesight can make keeping up with the housework harder. For example, it’s often harder to spot dust accumulating on surfaces. While some people may see this as a blessing (after all, what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve….), others will worry about what they might be overlooking.

It’s common to experience a decline in eyesight in midlife but regular eye checks and, where necessary, eyeglasses can help minimise the impact of the problem.

Ignoring food hygiene

If you’ve “always done something”, it can be difficult to accept that what is and isn’t acceptable may change. For instance, you may always have washed chicken in the sink before cooking it – because that’s what your mom did, and her mom before that.

Whether or not you believe the food safety standard experts who tell you that washing poultry is both unnecessary and unsafe – and change your own practises as a result – may depend on your own personality. Some people are better at accepting change than others… even if it comes at the cost of their health.

Failing to wash your hands

You only have to visit a public restroom to notice how many people don’t wash their hands. This might make you shudder but are you honestly as rigorous when it comes to your own standards of hygiene?

It’s quite common for people in the comfort of their own home to skip hand washing. After all, it’s only your own bacteria from your own body, after all – isn’t it? However, whether you’re five, 50 or 105, regular hand washing is basic hygiene that protects both you and those around you.

Coughing into your hand

It’s something we’re all taught as children – cover your mouth when you cough. However, using your hand is the wrong way to go about it. Think about it – you cough into your hand, and then those germs contaminate everything you touch. Instead, as we all learned during the Covid pandemic, cough into your elbow.

There’s no evidence to suggest that over 50s are more resistant to switching to elbow coughs than anyone else. However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that all too many people of all ages cough without covering their mouth at all.

Picking your eye gunk

Weepy, gunky eyes aren’t only a consequence of a crying bout. Allergies and age both also contribute to the problem. And, for women, watery eyes is yet another common side-effect of the menopause.

If you’re a sufferer, try to work out if anything triggers to weeping. For instance, if pollen is an issue, keeping your windows closed overnight or not air drying clothes outside can help. And, if you wake up with gunky yellow eyes, don’t pick at it but instead wash it off with warm water.

Getting into bed with dirty clothes

As we age, energy levels deplete. For most of us, though, they don’t deplete to the extent that we don’t manage to get into pajamas at the end of the day. If you’re ever tempted, remember that your clothes pick up debris and dirt throughout the course of your day – dirt which will then contaminate your bed.

Sadly, some older people are physically too incapacitated to get themselves ready for bed, and may resort to sleeping in their clothes. Keep an eye out for this situation developing with older relatives and friends as they may need extra help.

Sharing toothbrushes

What’s a mere toothbrush between close friends? Riddled with gross plaque and bacteria, that’s what. No matter how close you are to your friends and family, it’s best to keep your toothbrush for your use only – unless you want to be filling your mouth with other people’s germs.

And, yes, the same rule should apply to spouses and lovers. Just because you make out with someone and sleep with them doesn’t mean you should share their toothbrush. Even in a long marriage, some things should remain all yours.

Kisses from your pooch

Your dog may be your best friend, but that doesn’t mean you should let them lick your face. Just think, their faces are constantly sniffing in the dirt, while their tongues are used to clean their private parts. If they then use that same tongue to kiss you, they’re coating you in all sorts of unsavory bacteria.

And before you congratulate yourself for having a cat, don’t get carried away. A cat’s mouth is no more sanitary than a dog’s.

Not washing new clothes

When you get a brand new outfit, it can be tempting to wear it straightaway, skipping the wash. However, this practice is pretty gross. Think about it – whether it’s a new garment or a secondhand one, who knows how many people have already tried it on?

You might also want to remember many new fabrics are treated with chemicals that smell unpleasant and can even aggravate respiratory conditions. Meanwhile, secondhand clothes could have been stored in unsanitary surroundings or kept in musty storage facilities for long periods of time.

Not closing the toilet lid

This one is for the men who are over 50. For some reason, like many younger guys, they have the odd habit of leaving the toilet lid (and seat) up. This is annoying for any woman who’s next in the bathroom. Worse, it’s also a potential vehicle for pathogen transmission.

Flushing the toilet with the lid up propels particles of feces around the room to coat the bathroom with invisible specks of bodily waste. Frankly, if you haven’t learned this by the age of 50 or so, there’s no hope for you…..

Blowing out birthday candles

Most of us appreciate a candle-decorated cake. However, if you’ve ever declined a slice of birthday cake after watching an over-enthusiastic child decorate the frosting with a shower of spittle as they blow out their candles, you might want to take that approach with any candle-decorated cake.

Even if you can’t see the saliva, it’s there – and it will land on the cake. And, as you’ll know, human spit is the ideal reservoir for a wide variety of pathogens. Finally, bear in mind that more candles means more puff (and hence spit) is needed to blow them out…..

Wearing shoes inside the house

In western cultures, the habit of not wearing shoes in the home is more common among younger people. The over 50s, on the other hand, are more likely to keep outdoor footwear on their feet when inside the home. If it’s their home, that’s fair enough. If it’s yours and you have a shoes-off policy, it’s not so good.

Luckily, regular floor sweeping and vacuuming is usually up to dealing with most things tracked in on shoes. Of course, putting shoes up on a couch, bed or other piece of furniture is another (and grosser) matter altogether.

Putting on a buffet

There’s nothing quite like getting all of the family together for a delicious buffet. What many over 50s fail to realize, however, is just how unhygienic these spreads are. Double-dippers, sticky fingers, coughs, sneezes, and all sorts of bugs can find their way to the food, making the entire feast a stomach-churning affair.

Minimise the risk by preparing and storing all the food appropriately, and only bring it to the table just before people are ready to eat.

Picking your teeth

Where a younger person might rush to the bathroom to check for detritus between their teeth or simply avoid ordering spinach and steak in the first place, an older person might be more comfortable with picking their teeth. Worse, some people will even do this in public.

Of course, in some cultures, tooth picking is accepted – although it usually involves a tooth pick. However, in other cultures, tooth picking is regarded as antisocial and unhygienic. Clearly, when it comes to tooth picking, knowing who you’re having dinner with is crucial!

Licking your fingers

Kids are gross in more ways than most adults can count. That said, not many of them lick their fingers before flicking through paperwork. Of course, this could be because most kids do all their reading on screens but it could also be because finger licking is a habit that tends to hit in later life.

If we’re ranking them, finger licking isn’t the worst habit to have but it’s pretty likely to raise a shudder in anyone watching, especially if they’re expecting to have to handle the same pile of papers. Try not to do it. After all, the average mouth contains more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Invading other people’s personal space

Small children have no concept of personal space. However, most people learn quite quickly that they value personal space – and that other people do too. Of course, there are the odd outliers but, by and large, personal space infringements isn’t a regular problem for most adults.

Sometimes, however, older adults may seem to struggle to understand personal space. Occasionally this may be a consequence of declining hearing but sometimes it can be sign of mild cognitive impairment or the early stages of dementia. As a result, it’s always best to tread sensitively when tackling someone about the issue.

Not flossing

Receding gums are common in middle age. Although not usually a sign of any failing in your dietary or dental practises, they do need careful attention – and this means flossing.

Yes, flossing is time-consuming and it’s often tempting to skip it, especially last thing at night when you’re tired. However, remember that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, especially in older adults. Five minutes or so spent flossing is a small price to pay if it helps reduce that risk.

Picking earwax

Waxy ears are a common side-effect of growing older. As well as interfering with hearing, wax build-up can be itchy and unsightly. As a result, it’s understandable to want to remove it.

However, the tip of your finger is not a suitable tool for ear wax removal – especially not in public. And, even though they seem ideally suited to the task, neither are q-tips. It’s easy to jam a q-tip in too far, scratching the delicate lining of the ear canal. Instead, use ear drops or, if that doesn’t appeal, see a professional.

Not brushing your teeth

Swerving tooth-brushing is a disgusting habit that ought to be confined to obstinate toddlers and teenagers rediscovering their toddler obstinacy. It’s certainly not anything that a mature adult should countenance.

However, everyone has at least the occasional long and tiring day when tooth-brushing seems like one task too many. As a one-off, this might not be a problem but do remember that gum and tooth problems are more likely to be an issue in older adults.

Scratching an itch – with household items

It’s one of those habits that many people indulge in – often unthinkingly or when there’s no-one there to see. However, it’s pretty gross to use random household objects to scratch an itch, especially when other people also use the same item.

And, in case you were wondering, there’s no free pass if you happen to have a limb in a cast. Yes, that limb will probably itch more than any part of you has ever itched before. However, as a mature adult, you’ll be well aware that using a wire coat hanger to scratch that itch is a very bad idea indeed.

Constant sniffing

We tend to think that sniffing is a childhood habit that most people have managed to knock on the head by the time they’ve left school. However, this isn’t always the case. For some people, allergies cause persistent sniffing. For others, sniffing becomes a habit.

The sudden reappearance of persistent sniffing in an otherwise healthy adult always bears investigation. For instance, it can sometimes be caused by nasal polyps, which may require surgical removal, or a sinus infection.


Babies are natural droolers. However, some people never quite grow out of the habit and this isn’t a personal failing even if it does feel a little unsavory.

A tendency to drool during sleep often reappears in older adults. Sometimes it’s a short-lived problem, caused by a cold or other respiratory infection. Occasionally it’s a side-effect of something more serious, such as sleep apnea. Otherwise, while embarrassing, especially where it happens on a train or plane, drooling doesn’t usually mean more than needing to keep on top of the laundry.

Not keeping on top of the cleaning

Cleaning is a daily task – and can feel never-ending, especially for those who live in a busy household with kids, dogs and other pets. Some over-50s will be lucky enough to be able to afford to pay someone to come in and clean. Others must do it themselves – although hopefully they also get their kids involved.

However, increasing age and infirmity can make cleaning a real challenge. This is a situation that requires tactful handling as few people welcome being told that they’re not coping.