The Kerusso Blog Team
July 10, 2017

Why Grandpa Says Inappropriate Things & How To Conquer Cranky Senior Syndrome

Frank Costanza's "SERENITY NOW" quip is pretty funny, but seniors who find themselves unable to avoid a bad mood aren't laughing much about their challenges. Here are some reasons for "Cranky Senior Syndrome" and steps for conquering it.Have you ever met someone you’d describe as a sourpuss, a grouch, or just plain cranky? Or have you ever noticed that the older our loved ones get, the more they tend to spout off inappropriate words or phrases – including things they’d never have uttered years prior?

If that person was you, would you know it? How do you recognize if you are developing a cranky demeanor or exhibiting an unusual lack of inhibition, and what can you do to climb out of that rut and embrace your former, friendlier, kinder self?

A quick search of the internet reveals 357,000 responses to the search terms “cranky senior citizen” and over 200 million results for the question “why do seniors say inappropriate things.” But it doesn’t have to be this way! Read on for tips on recognizing the problem, and reaching out – and up – for help.

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

 — Psalm 118:24

Everybody has an off day now and then, or maybe even a tough week. But if you’re having more cranky days than not, or your loved ones tell you that you are saying “socially inappropriate” things, it’s worth considering what might be the source behind your feelings and actions. It might be temporary blues, or it might be something more serious. Either way, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to keep feeling this way.

A few possible causes for Cranky Senior Syndrome

  • Frustration due to loss of independence
  • Loss of ability to do some things you used to do
  • Depression over losses
  • Natural shrinking of the brain’s frontal lobe as we age
  • Dementia onset
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic pain or health issues
  • Fear or anxiety about the future

Each of these issues carries with it the potential to put anyone in a sour mood; combine more than one of these concerns, and just about anybody would be at risk of a grouchy outlook more often than not. And to some degree, it’s a natural occurrence, as Newsweek wrote in a report about new medical research revealing “Why Granpda Says Inappropriate Things”:

The loss of inhibition is the result of the brain’s traitorous tendency to shrink as we age. The frontal lobes, in particular, atrophy. The result is educed ability to inhibit irrelevant or unwanted thoughts. This loss of inhibition might explain other behaviors that crop up in many elderly, including “social inappropriateness.”

If you think you might be spending a lot of time in the Grouch Zone, or someone you care about points out that you’ve become a bit cantankerous (or they’re cringing when you ask about their stomach issues at the dinner table), there are steps you can take to reclaim your smile and improve your outlook.

Practical steps for battling Cranky Senior Syndrome

  • Be honest with yourself, and do a little digging into why you feel this way:
  • • How’s your health?
  • • How long have you felt this way?
  • • Are you on any medications that might be impacting your mood?
  • • Are you bogged down by any longstanding, particular worries?
  • • Do you feel isolated, living far from loved ones or having just retired?
  • • Whom can you talk to about these feelings?
  • Ask for help from someone you trust: your son or daughter, a friend, your pastor, a doctor or counselor.
  • Offer grace. If your grandchildren, neighbors, or people you meet seem to rub you the wrong way more often than usual, next time this happens, stop to ask yourself, “Is this about me, or is this just a young person being a young person?” It’s frustrating to feel like you are on a different page from another person or group of people or to experience disrespect. That said, regularly practicing patience and grace for your family and those you meet will allow you to let go of some of those frustrations more easily over time.
  • Be more curious. The next time someone of a different generation disagrees with you, or takes an approach you instinctively question, ask questions before you jump to conclusions or become frustrated. Everyone, at every age, longs to be heard. Take the time to get to know a young person in your neighborhood, or your condo neighbor, or the person in your bridge club who perhaps says outlandish things. Learning that person’s story will give you perspective you didn’t have before, and you may even make a new friend.
  • Choose something to look forward to. When is the last time you planned a visit somewhere, or welcomed a visitor? Tried a new hobby or mastered a new recipe? Saw a new movie or took a child to the park? Every soul needs hope to thrive. Whether your jive is a houseplant, a mystery novel, or joining a sewing circle, engaging in something new builds new synapses in your brain, introduces you to new ideas, and can help you meet new friends. 

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’”

— Jeremiah 29:11

  • Reclaim your gratitude … and by default, your joy. Look around you. Read the newspaper. It won’t take long to see that things could be a lot worse. You have much to be grateful for ­– we all do, as long as we are still living and breathing. Make a list of the things you are grateful for in your mind, daily if necessary. If it helps, write your list down. Keep it on the wall in the room where you spend the most time. Then, prayerfully thank the Lord for His blessings, and for all the beauty that surrounds us, and for the salvation we know we have through Jesus Christ.
  • Get outside your normal walls. Physicians say that regular, short bouts of walking or other simple exercise that gets your heart pumping helps battle dementia, clear the mind, and boost your mood. And aerobic exercise enhances the functioning of frontal lobes in older adults, science has shown. Just because your body may, at times, seem to be betraying you, doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It simply means new mechanisms for living your best life are in order.

Embracing a more optimistic outlook and rising above a downtrodden spirit isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. You don’t have to do it on your own. No matter your age or circumstances, you are a beloved child of God, and He wants to renew your joy. Pray daily for God to refresh your spirit and return a ready smile to your face, and happiness to your heart. Do your part by finding new things to be grateful for, and He won’t let you down.

Most of us get down and out once in a while – even downright cranky – but through faith and perseverance, it is possible to find new reasons to smile and to engage in community or an interesting hobby, new friendships, or wise counsel. God bless you in your pursuit of happiness and a sunnier outlook, and if we can pray for you in any way, let us know.

Meanwhile, remember how to laugh – even at yourself! Here's a little nudge in the right direction! :)

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