Home > GOLDEN YEARS > Healthy Ageing > Emotional Changes Among Older Person

Emotional Changes Among Older Person


Aging is another stage of life such as childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Older persons age differently and experience aging differently. They might experience various changes in term of physical, psychological, relationships, social, environment, situation, behavior, spiritual and intellectual. Everyone adjusts to aging differently. For those who fails to adjust successfully might develop various emotional problems.

What are the possible types of emotional changes in an older person?

Older persons have different ways of coping with their losses and changes in life. If they have adjusted fairly well during their adulthood, they are more likely to be able to adjust well to their old age. On the other hand, if they used to resist change throughout their younger age, they will probably continue to do so and experience various negative physical and emotional effects.

The emotional changes that may be faced by an older person includes:

  • Denial
  • Some older persons cope by refusing to acknowledge that changes have occurred in themselves and they might decide to ignore the changes and hope that the changes will go away by itself. Thus, their physical or mental problem might get worse with time without proper treatment.

  • Guilt
  • The older persons might be blaming themselves and feel that they could have prevented a loss if they have reacted in a different way. This type of guilty feeling might cause social isolation, depression or even suicidal attempt.

  • Loneliness
  • The older persons might isolate themselves as a way of mourning the loss of familiar people and their loved one. By isolating themselves, they might feel more lonely and lead to more severe emotional or mental health problem.

  • Sense of helplessness
  • Some older persons might feel that they are so useless, helpless and at the mercy of their physical problems, changes in living arrangement or negative events. This sense of hopelessness and helplessness might be prolonged and lead to the development of depressive illness or even suicidal attempt.

  • Extremely critical and suspicious behavior
  • Some older persons may become overly critical, suspicious or even paranoid. Thus, they do not trust anyone and may feel that they are being manipulated. This type of suspicious or overly critical characters can affect the interpersonal relationship and disrupt the harmony of the family.

  • Stubbornness
  • Those older persons who feel out of control might try to regain some control by taking on an attitude that everyone has to follow their ways. This type of stubbornness will lead to a more emotional problem as they have great difficult to get along well with their spouse or other family members.

  • Selective memory
  • Some older persons might be coping by remembering only the best or the worst parts of certain events and people in their life. They might distort the reality and hold on to their false belief. This type of selective memory especially by remembering the bad parts of their spouse or family members can lead to more family conflict.

  • Regression
  • Older persons might be going back to their old behaviors or ways of coping with painful events which might not be practical or relevant. They might choose not to get modern treatment and instead opt for the more traditional treatment which might endanger their health or even life.

  • Recollecting past experiences or events / reminiscence
  • Older persons might dwell on how things used to be, wish for things to be the same as they were younger and resist to any changes. Refusal to accept changes in old age can cause a further emotional problem as they are unlikely to adjust themselves well in life.

  • Anger / rage
  • When older persons feel that they have no control over the present, they may react by showing their anger. They may release their anger towards their family members who are most supportive because they know that these people will still love them in spite of their anger. Thus, this can lead to further family discord.

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Some older persons might react to lose and uncertainty by feeling depressed or anxiousness. It is important to help the older persons to understand that these feeling can be normal and to get help if the feelings have prolonged and interfered with their daily living. Otherwise, it might increase the risk of committing suicide in the older person.

  • Grief
  • Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of loved one, former lifestyles, relationships, health, vision and hearing, capability level, mobility or independence. The grief reaction in an older person might be worsen if it is not being recognized promptly and counselled accordingly.


An Older person might age and experience aging differently. Everyone adjusts to aging differently. For those older persons who fail to adjust successfully might develop various types of emotional problems. Therefore, it is importance to empower the older person how to cope with these emotional changes in order to prevent further development of more severe mental illnesses.


  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