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Factors Affecting Emotional Changes Among Elderly


Aging is another stage of life such as childhood, adolescence or adulthood. People age differently and experience aging differently based on genetic factors, lifestyle and personal attitudes.

Aging means various changes in term of physical, psychological, relationships, social, environment, situation, behavior, spiritual, and intellectual. Everyone adjusts to aging differently.

The biggest challenge for older persons (and their caregivers) is to accept and adjust to these changes. For those who fail to adjust successfully might develop a various emotional problem.

What factors might lead to unwanted emotional changes in an older person?

As older person ages, various changes occur and special challenges arise. Growing older means an older person need to face many physical, social, emotional and psychological issues that come with aging process. Multiple factors might lead to emotional changes in older person, for examples:

  • Health issues
  • As older persons age, they are more prone to develop multiple chronic medical problems. Older persons who have been healthy most of their life may struggle with accepting and adjusting with their new health problems as they grow older.

  • Physical changes such as impairment in vision, hearing and other senses
  • All of the sensory organs tend to degenerate with age.The older persons might have more difficulty in focusing on near objects and their lenses may gradually become clouded. They might have difficulty in hearing and communicating with others. Such sensory impairments may be very disruptive for those who have never experienced sensory loss previously.

  • Mobility problems
  • Those elderly who are physically inactive and/or suffering from knee or joints problem may experience further declines in their muscle strength and mobility. These may limit their daily activities and impair their mobility in the community. Thus, it might lead to social isolation and even depression if not being recognized and treated earlier.

  • Memory issues
  • The older person might process and retrieve information in a slower ways as they grow older. For example, they may take a longer time to recall information and to express their feelings. However, multiple factors such as stress, side-effect of certain medications, depression, dementia and a number of other conditions might further worsen the memory problems.

  • Retirement
  • Older person adjust differently to retirement. Some elders adjust very well to retirement but others might find it difficult to adjust themselves after retirement. In general, those older persons who manage to start another meaningful activities or jobs after their retirement are more satisfied than those who retire without further retirement plan.

  • Change of environment
  • Older persons might need to move into a smaller house due to financial constraint after retirement. They might be forced to be placed in an assisted living or institution due to some physical or mental disability. It can be difficult for older persons to move to a new place as the loss of familiar surroundings or things require longer adjustment period.

  • Financial problem
  • Incomes usually decline after retirement and older persons might be worry about their financial security as they do not know how long more they might live or what their expenses will be in future.

  • Death of spouse, other family and friends
  • One of the most difficult changes that the older persons need to face is the loss of significant people in their life and how to cope with their feelings. They might suffer even more with the death of their spouse.


    Older persons might face various critical changes in life such as physical, psychological, social and environmental situation. Different people have different ways of coping with their losses and changes. If they have failed to adjust themselves well during their old age, they will probably experience various negative impact and suffer from various unwanted emotional changes.


  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