Get Off of My Lawn: The Elderly and Negativity

About two months have passed since our decision to move my 88-year-old mother Ginny into a senior living facility.

The best news we received in that time was that she would not be forced to sign a year lease by September 1st after all. Working with the realty company, the condo owners agreed to no new lease or rent increase as long as Ginny moved by the end of the year. We immediately agreed to the four-month extension. This would allow my sister and I some breathing room to find a new home.

We started by re-visiting the first facility she “discovered” last year. (Mom was trying to visit a friend, but she had the wrong location.)  She remains enthusiastic about “The Groves”, so she was placed on a list of interested residents and would be called when a one-bedroom apartment with a “green view” (trees) became available.

 We also took her to see another senior living home. It seemed like a good idea to add potential options since we were under a deadline. This complex was currently promoting two bedroom apartments for the price of a one. More space sounded appealing.

We arrived for the tour and pulled into a convenient parking spot labeled “Future Oakhurst Resident” and they had written Ginny’s name on the sign. Clever.

Well, my mother, like many other seniors, passed judgment quickly.  The minute we pulled into the large parking lot that paralleled the two 8 story buildings, she made a comment on the “ugly” black screens on all the lanais.

“We can barely even see them, mom” was our collective response.

“Well, I can and I think they look grim.”

“Why does she have to be so negative without giving it a chance?” I think to myself.

In fact, why do many seniors tend to get more negative as they age? Some generalizations include that they tire easily and get grumpy. Clint Eastwood yelling “Get off of my lawn!” comes to mind. Or, they lose their “filter” and don’t care. Over their lifetime, they have determined what works and what doesn’t so they have little patience for someone asking them to be open-minded.

But in truth, there are several significant reasons why the elderly can become negative particularly when that negativity appears suddenly. Here is a list I found from AgingCare: How to Cope With a Senior’s Complaining and Negativity that I thought was worth sharing:

  Medications Can Cause Personality Changes

“Many prescription medications can have serious side effects that include personality changes. Psychiatric drugs are one clear example. They’re intended to alter a person’s brain chemistry to improve moods and behavior, but the way they work in the body is very complicated. Certain types of these drugs simply do not function well with a person’s brain chemistry. In some cases, the wrong medication can actually cause their condition to worsen. If your loved one has started an antidepressant or another type of psychiatric medication, don’t just assume things will get better. Some of these drugs take several weeks to reach their full effect, whether it is positive or negative…

Other types of medications can also have negative effects on personality. Anti-seizure medications, statins, blood pressure medications and even anti-inflammatories can cause personality changes in some people…

Pain Can Make Seniors Crabby

If your loved one was doing well but suddenly changes into an irritable complainer, make sure they see the doctor to check for painful changes in their health. Many elders “don’t want to complain,” so they refuse to go to the doctor. Ironically, they often continue to gripe to their family members all day long. The complaints might be about the pain itself, or they may express their frustration and discomfort by criticizing everything around them. Look for obvious signs that they might need a visit to the doctor for some enhanced pain relief. Joint pain is a common source of discomfort for older individuals, and indications include changes in gait (e.g. limping, moving more slowly, walking less), problems with dexterity, or fixating on a certain joint or area of the body.

A Senior’s Complaints Might Stem from Boredom

When people are in the workforce, raising children and socializing with friends, they may feel they have to rein in their negative side. Once their responsibilities decrease or they retire, they may feel they’ve “earned” the right to say exactly what they feel. And much of what they feel could be negative if they are bored or no longer have a sense of purpose. These emotions are often compounded when they’re accompanied by limited mobility, reduced energy and other age-related changes that affect their daily life…

Dementia May Be to Blame

Memory impairment is the classic symptom that most people associate with dementia, but personality changes may be the first to appear in some seniors. Memory problems can go unnoticed by family and friends for quite some time if a loved one is particularly good at compensating for or covering up their shortcomings. Although their forgetfulness may not be apparent, they may be increasingly irritable and easily flustered due to difficulties with basic tasks and lapses in memory…”


In the end, Ginny’s impressions didn’t change so the tour was unproductive. (We had stayed for lunch, however, and we did all agree that the food was excellent.)

It became clear that her negativity stemmed from not wanting to explore something new because she knew what she wanted. The Groves. And ironically, that’s a big positive.


  1. I hope Ginny adjusts well to her senior living facility. I’m happy that she sounded positive about The Groves. I think you’ve nailed the more common reasons why an older person becomes less patient. One other reason I’d add is it is hard for any of us to see our loss of independence slipping away.

    One of the hardest things I had to do was to take away my mother’s keys and driver’s license when it became clear that she was a danger to herself and others. It was only a matter of time before something terrible happened to her or some innocent party. As hard as it was on me to take away part of her freedom, it was harder on my mom. She had to become more reliant on others. I would take her shopping every week, and many of her friends took her on outings. She was angry and resentful toward me at first, but I understood. I would not want to lose my independence either.

    I’m sure you probably know this already, Melanie, but many people go through an adjustment period when they move into an assisted living facility. We were lucky with my mom”s situation because they served good food, had daily activities for the residents that they could take part in or not, and she had friends already living there when she first moved in. Mom called me several times in the beginning, talking about moving home, but that lessened over time. I wish Ginny and your family the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point Pete about your mom’s independence being taken away. That is huge and would definitely make a person feel a lot of negativity. Thank you for adding that. As is often the case in life, there will be a twist coming up with the housing, but ultimately I can say that all is well. 🙂 Thanks Pete.


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