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Behavioral Changes in Old Age: Why Do Some Old People Get Mean?

Sometimes it feels like elderly people are always angry, and not just because they can’t figure out the TV remote. If we’re being honest, TV remotes these days are far too complicated, even for the young and “tech-savvy.” But there’s a reason you smiled at that image as well as the many “old man yells at cloud” memes floating around the internet - angry old people are a real thing. But why do old people get so mean?

Why Do Old People Get Cranky?

Behavioral changes in old age are common and can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the factors leading to rudeness in old age are:

  • Hormonal changes. Men see a decrease in testosterone beginning around age 40, and women see a decrease in estrogen beginning around age 50, both of which can lead to depression and mood swings. While women tend to cry and vent to friends, men mask their depression with anger, leading us to the “get off my lawn!” cry associated with the elderly.

  • Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Memory loss and cognitive impairment can certainly lead to anger and frustration, which can lead to a senior lashing out at those around them. Luckily, some of this can be treated with medication, so if you are concerned about dementia, speak to your doctor.

  • Vision or Hearing loss. Another reason why old people are so cranky is that they cannot see or hear as well as they used to. You would be cranky, too, if you had to say, “what?!” every time someone tried to talk to you, or you couldn’t see the hotties in your favorite TV shows as well as before.

  • Depression. Change can be rough, and the older you get the more change you experience. Loss of loved ones, loss of ability to drive or care for oneself, loss of one’s home - all of these situations are common to the elderly and can lead to depression. Depression can lead to anger and emotional outbursts. If your loved one (or you) is suffering from depression, definitely reach out to a doctor. There are medications and other therapies that can help.

Download Our Guide to Dealing with Elderly Anger

Attention Seeking Behavior in Elderly Adults

It’s possible that the answer to your question, “Why are old people so mean?” is simply that they want or need attention. Elderly people may be jealous of your social life, have low self-esteem, or just feel lonely. Their quest for attention may manifest as anger, just like a young child would when they are not sure how else to communicate.

The important thing to remember as you deal with an angry elder - and admittedly, this is not always easy - try to come from a place of empathy and compassion. Remember they aren’t being grumpy or mean because they dislike you personally or want to hurt your feelings. Listen attentively and be as kind as possible. Getting old is no picnic. Hopefully, you too will be old someday, and you will likely want someone to be kind and attentive to you as well.