Understanding Personality and Behavioral Changes in Old Age

Melanie Bacelisco | March 24, 2022

Melanie Bacelisco | March 24, 2022


Understanding Personality and Behavioral Changes in Old Age 

Your personality and behavior keep changing throughout your lifetime. As you age, you slowly leave behind a carefree form of living for serious responsibilities and decisions that make up your entire life. 

These changes in your behavior and personality never stop. They become more dramatic as you grow old, and even more drastic with seniors who have conditions, such as dementia.

Personality and Behavioral Changes in Elderly

Let’s look at some of these personality and behavioral changes in old age and what you as a family caregiver can do about them.


If one of your parents has recently retired from work, you might notice that they have become gloomy. That’s because they are experiencing a significant life event. For older people, their work gives them identity and purpose. With that gone due to retirement, what remains ahead is years of figuring out what to do next so they may become easily irritable and angry.

But be patient, empathetic, and offer help when necessary. More importantly, visit a physician to determine if some medical issues cause sadness.

Anxiety and Depression

There are many reasons for anxiety and depression in aging people. Factors like declining health, reduced social activities, and rising healthcare expenses can make your senior parent feel down and anxious.

Encourage them to pursue artistic hobbies that make them feel productive, such as painting or knitting. If that doesn’t help, the anxiety and depression may be connected to a health condition. Stop by your doctor’s office for a checkup. 

Memory loss

Memory loss is a hallmark and one of the earliest symptoms of dementia. While it’s normal for older people to be forgetful now and then, frequent memory loss may mean possible dementia. To confirm the risk, visit a doctor for an assessment. 

Poor sleep patterns

Most older people are sleep-deprived. If your loved one’s sleeping patterns have led to lack of sleep, confusion, and memory lapses, see your doctor. 

Poor sleep is associated with many chronic conditions in seniors, such as Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, etc. Visiting your doctor for an early diagnosis can prevent complex health conditions. If their health isn’t compromised, help them create a fixed sleeping schedule. Also, engage them in physical activities during the day and avoid caffeinated beverages before bedtime. 


When your parents reach old age, their interest in things declines. They may experience apathy or lack of enthusiasm in activities that bring joy. Hence, they may feel indifferent and passive. If this behavior prolongs, it harms personal and social relationships. 

Apathy is an early symptom of many neurodegenerative disorders, so visit your doctor for a checkup. Also, make time to do the things that they used to enjoy. Whether it’s cooking, fishing, or walking in the park, engaging them in social activities may spark their interest in things again. 

Impulsiveness or rudeness

If a senior parent shows impulsiveness and inappropriate gestures, like touching others or saying rude remarks, it may indicate an underlying health problem. If these behaviors aren’t their natural personality, seek professional help. Otherwise, calmly explain that their impulsive actions may hurt their loved ones and the people around them.  


It’s alarming if your mild-mannered senior loved one goes through a personality shift that makes them aggressive. Sometimes, violent behaviors are due to the lack of sleep, side effects of medications, or dementia. When such behavior manifests, know what’s triggering it to find a solution.

However, if they consciously display unacceptable behavior, talk to them calmly and make them understand why their behavior is intolerable. 


Without proper caregiving training, many family caregivers grapple when handling problematic behaviors. That said, you must understand that some of their displayed behaviors are out of their control, especially if a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s.  It’s not personally them, but the disease that makes them act in violent ways. 

Nonetheless, always consider seeking medical help whenever you see fit. Assuming they have a neurological condition that affects their behavior and personality, early intervention can ease some of the symptoms and slow the progression of the cognitive decline.