Home > GOLDEN YEARS > Healthy Ageing > Coping With The Emotional Changes Among Elderly

Coping With The Emotional Changes Among Elderly


Older persons age differently and experience aging differently. They might face various major life changes such as physical, psychological, relationships, social, environment, situation, behavior, spiritual and intellectual. Older persons have different ways of coping with their losses and changes in life. For those older persons who fail to adjust successfully, they might develop various emotional problems. If they have a good coping mechanism, they will usually adjust fairly well with their emotional changes and able to avoid the various undesired mental illness.

How can the older persons cope with these emotional changes?

The older persons can cope with these emotional changes by keeping a positive attitude and sense of well-being. Several effective measures can be taken, for examples:

Replacing lost activities with some suitable activities, for examples:

  1. Physical activity
  2. If the older person can no longer run, they might try walking, biking, and/or swimming. Regular physical activity can protect or improve their emotional and cognitive health. Physical activity can produce chemicals in the body that promote emotional well-being, instead, inactivity can worsen the depression, anxiety, and stress.

  3. Social activity
  4. By staying in touch with friends, family and community can protect or improve the older person’s emotional health. Whether physically healthy or not, older persons who feel connected to others are more likely to feel good than those who are socially isolated.

  5. Mental activity
  6. The older persons can protect or improve their memory and mental sharpness by:

    • Challenging their intellect on a daily basis. For examples, read, learn a new skill or language, do crossword puzzles or play games. An active brain continues to develop while an inactive brain will eventually lose its power over time.
    • Strengthening the memory by writing down dates, names and other important information that they easily forget.
    • Preventing depression can prevent cognitive decline in older people. It can be prevented by getting regular physical activity, social contact, avoid the depressant effect of alcohol and sedative drug use, eat healthy meals and include meaningful activity in their daily life such as learning, creating, working and volunteering. The older persons should seek professional help if they think that they have depression as antidepressant medicine or counseling or both can treat depression effectively.

Stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

Too much stress can have a negative effect on both body and mind of an older person. To overcome life stress, an older person can practice the following:

  1. Getting regular physical activity can relax both body and mind effectively.
  2. Practice meditation daily. Meditation can help an older person to focus their attention and help to calm both mind and body. It can be used for managing a spectrum of physical and emotional conditions including anxiety, depression and chronic pain.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques
    • Progressive muscle relaxation can reduce muscle tension, general anxiety and may help the older person to get better sleep.
    • Breathing exercises is a good way to feel relaxed, reduce tension and stress.

Positive thinking.

Positive thinking may help the older person to live a longer and happier life. The following steps can be taken to help an older person to think positively in their daily life, for examples:

  1. Create positive expectations on themselves, their health and life. When the older persons find themselves having a negative thought or predicting a bad outcome, they should try to reframe their thought into a positive one, speak it out loud or write it down.
  2. Open them to friendship and love. They should try to find reasons to laugh and to spend time with people they like.
  3. Enhance spiritual well-being by praying to God. This spiritual wellness can help them through difficult lifetime changes and losses.
  4. Recognize and come to terms with the unavoidable physical effects of aging. However, try to minimize the physical disability with adequate rehabilitation.

Tips for mental and emotional fitness in older persons

  • Engage in a healthy lifestyle, for examples, involve in some hobby like gardening, fishing, indoor games
  • Acknowledge  and utilize their strength in carrying out some constructive work such as voluntary work
  • Plan to do  something outdoor and do not stay at home always
  • Setting fresh objectives to achieve and boost mental strength
  • Open their mind to new information by listening to others, watching to television news, documentaries and inspiring stories
  • Present them as a positive image and create a purpose to live.

How can the caregivers help the older persons to cope with these emotional changes?

Caregivers can help the older persons to cope with these emotional changes by:

  1. Helping the older person to maintain independence and self-sufficiency.
  2. Reducing risk of:
    • Health problem by regular medical checkups and immunizations to prevent illness such as influenza, tetanus, and others; dental care; diet and exercise (such as stretching, balance, endurance and strength)
    • Safety by removing obstacles to prevent falls, checking smoke alarms, checking water temperature and regular driving tests
  3. Using appropriate health care, family and community support if indicated
  4. Increasing knowledge of illness and prevent disability by attending appropriate training session in caring for older persons
  5. Reinforcing to the older person a sense of productivity and involvement in the community activities
  6. Helping the older persons to make informed choices to determine the course of their own life such as the end of life care.
  7. Being supportive to the older person when needed.
  8. Bringing a positive attitude to the older persons.
  9. If possible,learning how to perform first aid and CPR, lifting and transferring without injury to the caregivers.
  10. Taking care of themselves and clearly define their role and limitations so that they can provide good care to the older persons and avoid carers’ burn out
  11. Using external resources or aids if indicated.


Older persons have different ways of coping with their losses and changes in life. They can cope with these emotional changes by keeping a positive attitude and sense of well-being.
Those older persons who have good coping mechanism will usually adjust fairly well with their emotional changes and able to avoid the various undesired mental illness.


  1. Old Age Emotional Changes: Senior Citizen Emotional Problems (http://www.health-orbit.com/emotional-problem-old-age.html) (Accessed on 21/5/2016)
  2. WebMD. Healthy Aging – Emotional and Mental Vitality. (http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/tc/healthy-aging-emotional-and-mental-vitality)(Accessed on 21/5/2016)
  3. WHO. Fact sheet on Mental health and older adults. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs381/en/) (Accessed on 21/5/2016)
  4. Zanda Hilger et al. Behavior and Emotions of Aging. Family Caregiver Education, Area Agency on Aging, Revised 2009. (http://www.familycaregiversonline.net/online-education/behavior-and-emotions-of-aging)(Accessed on 21/5/2016)


Last Reviewed : 18 July 2016
Writer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau
Accreditor : Dr. Radziah bt. Abdul Rashid