September 24, 2013

Becoming a Grumpy Old Person: Is It Inevitable?





We are familiar with this personality type: the cranky old man. He is a stock character in movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  He seems to dislike everybody and everything. Step on his lawn or get in his way at the store and you will know it. Make the mistake to ask him about the government or taxes and your ears will burn for a week.  British author Carol Wyer has a name for it: “irritable male syndrome." He is not living a very satisfying retirement.

While working on my book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, a question was raised more than once that is worth thinking about. Here is how one contributor posed the question that gets to the heart of the issue:

"Why it does it seem like so many “old” people become bitter and negative, and then you have those “rare” old people who are enthusiastic about life, stay positive and keep fit. Is that something the positive-minded person has to really work hard at? Did they make a deliberate decision to not complain about their aches and pains, and to see the world as a beautiful place? Or is this how they were all their life?"

Importantly, remember that this question was not asked by someone in his or her 20's or 30's. This came from someone in their 50's or 60's, and therefore I assume is a concern in his or her own life. Do we all end up inflexible and intolerant?  Does the prospect of losing the ability to drive, or to stay in one's home drive most of us to put a scowl on our face?

I am sure there are all sorts of research studies and physiological reasons why this "grumpy old man" attitude strikes. Medical reasons may include a steady decline in testosterone levels that can produce this bad mood effect.

Let me speculate on some other possible triggers. Retirement can send many a man over the edge. With fewer friends than women, men have little social interaction after work and can become isolated and depressed. Certainly, the loss of a spouse could turn someone into a genuinely unhappy person. The loss of physical or mental capabilities has the potential to leave us bitter. We may remember the "good old days" as a time when government seemed to work more smoothly, young people were more respectful, and doctors made house calls.

Or, as the question implies, is the crankiness due more to attitude than reality? Are unhappy seniors just an older version of how they were when younger? Can people make a conscious effort to not fall into the complaint trap as they age? If there is a medical cause will that person seek some help?

My personal opinion is the cause is a combination of factors. The declining levels of testosterone after 60 are real. The effects are well documented. Overall, health and relationship issues must contribute to the potential for a less-then-sunny mood. The awareness of one's own mortality can be a rude awakening for someone.

At the same time, I believe attitude can be a major factor in preventing a full slippage into grumpiness. I don't mean the type of "everything is great, the glass is always at least half full" attitude. Denying what is happening in your life isn't the answer.

Maybe acceptance is a better word. No one gets out of here alive. Virtually all of us will suffer from some of the unpleasant realities of the aging process. To be grumpy and rude really says that person is too self-absorbed. We all have aches and pains, we all lose family and friends, we all face the loss of our ability to drive. To make everyone around you uncomfortable or unhappy is really saying, "It is all about me. My problems are worse than yours and that gives me the right to lash out."

Actually, it doesn't.

49 comments:

  1. I'm increasingly convinced that we simply become more of who we already are as we get older. The people I know that are positive are staying positive as they age, the few people I know that are negative (because I work to avoid negative people like the plague) are still as negative as ever.

    We are sometimes guilty of selective memory as well as we age. Music was better, films were better, the world was better 'back in the day.' No, I'm sorry, it actually wasn't. Parents have always disliked their children's choice in music, films back in the day were sanitized and did not accurately reflect society, and the world has always been in chaos.

    Attitude can be improved with effort, and there are so many lovely reasons to do so. Life is imminently more joyful when you see all the positive, and refuse to let the negative define you.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time from your half marathon prep (yes, I read your post yesterday!) to make such a thoughtful comment. Except for a a few examples "back in the day" there isn't a lot in our past that hasn't been improved on today. Do we still have a long road to travel? Absolutely. Do we have to do so in a nasty funk? Not in the least.

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    2. You are so wrong Bob in so much of what you say. To be a positive person, you have to be living a positive lifestyle and for many, this is impossible. You are an author and that is a privileged life. I have written a little, so I do know what I am talking about. Most of what you say here is for you to get material for your. Ext book may be, or maybe not. Please don't take what I say seriously, I am simply being honesy. Most people who I know who are - glass half full types, avoid all the people who disturb them. As I see it, all life that is full, should be a mixture of negative and positive, and most people I have met, who hate having anything to do with the less pleasant side of life, are self centred people who would snitch on their granny or grandpa for walking out of a shop with an unpaid bar of chocolate whilst in a mental fog, if they thought it would make them look a real goody goody. The elderly have become invisible to people either because they are unattractive to look at or a bit smelly because they have used all their energy up to get to a shop instead of using all their energy to " look nice ". Please get real Bob, and acknowledge how the other half live. The world has changed, kids have no respect for their elders, money is the only God that people truly worship. I want to be as independent as I can. I don't want people to ignore me if I haven't combed my hair.

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    3. I have no response to this rather disjointed rambling comment except that the post has nothing to do with a new book.

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  2. I have often thought of this myself, Bob, and now that Deb's mother is living with us, even more. She is a rotten, self-absorbed human being who thinks and cares for no one but herself, and that includes her attitude towards her only child. Is this a reflection of her true personality? Absolutely in her case since she has always been this way. Others I see were able to masquerade this personality disorder somewhat when they were younger, but find it almost impossible to do so when they age. What is on the inside is just manifesting itself on the exterior.

    On the other hand I have met and associate with other older folks who are extremely pleasant all the time. Lo and behold, they were that way most/all of their lives as well. I think having a well-grounded relationship with your spouse/partner helps, as well as a strong religious belief system. Not a lot of mystery to either group, the dissatisfied or satisfied. You are how you basically have lived your whole life.

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    1. Overall I agree with you, Chuck. Rotten then = rotten now, full of grace and love now = the same attitude later is often the case.

      But, I do think as we age physical and mental changes make it harder for us to gracefully accept some things. For example I find myself reacting more strongly now to government silliness than I once did. Maybe it is because I have the time to pay more attention than I did when I was consumed by the need to earn a living.

      For me, when I find myself getting into a snit over these issues I have to make a conscious effort to shift my thinking to something else. I have to break the spell that begins to grab me. It is important that I am aware of the "dark side" trying to take over and I take steps to stop it in its tracks. So far, so good.

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  3. As a volunteer person who helps out at an Assisted Living senior citizen home, I am sorry to say you have some of your information in error. Are you aware at how the elderly are treated? At home, at work, socially and in the media? Are you aware of how the elderly have been projected in the film industry or on TV? Are you aware of how, let's take Adam Sandler's recent films, elderly women are portrayed? Adam uses old women to give him oral sex, or forced sex just to get a laugh? If you were an elderly woman and you saw such vicious abuse, how would you feel about how you are being represented in film? Or, let's take TV.....one of the most popular young adult comedy series is 'How I Met Your Mother'. The new season starts with an episode that ridicules and mocks elderly people. Is this a good image we want our young people to learn and emulate? Where is the outrage over this atrocity? In other nations, such as China and Europe, the elderly are treated with respect. The younger generations don't run away from the old people simply because they are grumpy and negative. Do you have any idea how a simple 'hello' or 'how are you?' can brighten up an elderly person's day? That's what I found out as a volunteer. These old people are simply put in a wheel chair and rolled out into the hallway to spent the next 7 to 8 hours in complete silence. When I come onto the floor, I take the time to ask these most wonderful human beings how their day is going? And if they complain, I listen! What does it cost anyone to simply listen??? Their negativity does not rub off on me because I have a life. I don't need the energy charges from others to make my own day. Eventually, these people brighten up. I ask about their lives. One elderly woman is 102 years old and tells me stories about Fanny Brice and her life in Los Angeles. Not one single person in the assisted living community has asked this woman about her life!
    If you meet a grumpy elderly person it is probably because they have had a very hard, difficult life. What better way to make a difference in their lives then to simply take an interest and show that yes, there is really someone out there who cares, is not going to take advantage of them, wait for them to die to get all their money or exploit them for a pathetic laugh on the big screen or a TV station. Ditto for advertisements (they show the elderly drinking, partying, doing drugs, whatever just to sell a potato chip!)
    Everyone is going to get old. Everyone is going to become infirm. And most everyone may find themselves sitting in a wheelchair, abandoned by their family and friends. Just think about how you yourself would like to be treated if you were in that position? Want to be mocked and ignored or have people run n the opposite direction simply because they think you are negative and they don't want you to hamper their style? What goes around, comes around. If you treat the elderly with such disrespect now, the same fate will happen to you. Sadly, it's just a matter of time.

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    1. I am glad you have made these comments. You are absolutely correct in several important aspects. Much of media treats old people as a nuisance or the target of pranks and jokes. As a culture, our elders are too frequently not treated with respect or as if they had something to teach and share. The loss of multi-generational, close knit families leaves too many of our elderly lonely and feeling abandoned.

      At the same time, I do believe the attitude someone has exhibited throughout their lifetime plays a part in this area. A 30 year old with a negative attitude and sour mood is likely to carry that same feeling into seniorhood. Someone who always sees the bright side will most likely avoid becoming overly grumpy as he or she ages. Physical and mental erosion do provide a medical basis for mood changes.

      But, I don't want to diminish the importance of what you are sharing. How many folks like the picture at the top of this post would replace that scowl with a smile if they were treated with respect, well cared for, and listened to? We won't know unless we try, one person at a time.

      Your comment have added a very important perspective to this post. Thank you.

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    2. Thanks for these comments. While I don't work in that field both my parents are elderly and my mother in particular mentions the same type of treatment. The only thing I can say is "you reap what you sow".
      Thanks again!

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  4. Chronic pain could be a major player in making a man or woman cranky. Maybe the pain makes a person's life smaller, more restricted. I find myself having to clamp my lips shut not to comment truthfully when I am asked how I am.

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    1. So true. My wife has to deal with various levels of pain everyday. She tries to maintain a brave front, but every once in awhile her facade shows a few cracks, though usually only in front of me or at home. Most of her friends aren't aware of how much she has to deal with.

      During the last few years of my mom's life she went from an eternally sunny person to one occasionally in the grip of negative moods. She had gone blind and was in constant hip and knee pain. Even so, when she was with us or the great-grandkids she did her very best to be the sunny person everyone remembered.

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  5. It's true we become more of who we always were as we age. Even the most demented often retain their basic personality. If they lash out it could be because of many factors that we're just not aware of.

    I was a social worker in a large nursing home in my 40's through early 50's. I left for several reasons including my signature being more important than my skills and talents. I would come early or stay late to talk to residents but the volunteers generally didn't see me so they probably thought I didn't give a damn. But on the whole I agree with anonymous's comment. We diminish the elderly--and the frail elderly just don't have a chance.

    If somebody isn't listened to and is treated as a joke why should they have a good attitude? to make my job easier? I think not.

    I have to admit I read many blogs on aging both because I am and it was my field. I'm pretty jaundiced about the blogs. My parents traveled extensively; my father worked until he died--he was self-employed with many fascinating clients and so he stayed vitally involved in the world until he had a stroke and died five days later.

    But my mother still ended virtually blind from macular degeneration before it was well known and people acted as if she did something to deserve it!

    She never smoked, ate well, exercised both her body and mind. She wasn't demented but you would never know that from the way many of her cohort group, her damn friends, treated her. She had always been very giving and very popular. her attitude--I'm in awe that it remained so great. She always looked at the bright side. She lived in a NORC (naturally occurring retirement community) with the most amount of millionaires in the country.

    A great attitude means nothing when other people want to bring you down. I know a lot of people envied her life while my father was alive--he worshipped her. They were close but not on top of each other with separate interests.

    I read the blogs on aging and I think "it's one thing when you're in your 60's and 70's and another thing for many people in your 80's. Don't people realize that?" My parents were young and more importantly youthful-but they couldn't stem the physical changes. And they weren't the kind of "older" retirees you talk about--the ones who are satisfied sitting back in the recliner watching TV and the seasons change.

    I don't want to spend my 60's and then 70's getting ready for real old age but I know I will have to as I know from both my professional and personal life that a great attitude gets you far--in your younger older age In your older old age it's a lottery--one we can up the odds on only so far. Exercising, eating right--yes that important but so are genes and what you have been exposed to in life. My two childhood best friends have both had various cancers--great attitudes, educated, exercise right, all organic food forever. Me who used to smoke somehow has so far beaten that (and yes I was taught the horrors of smoking almost from birth.)

    Sorry if I sound like Nurse Cratchitt.

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    1. I had to edit your comment, Pia...not because of content but because Google has a limit on the length of comments it will accept. You have shared some very personal memories and insight. I hope your comment is read in that light: from someone who has been on the "inside" both personally and professionally of this issue and has seen what can happen.

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  6. Actually, I read recently that people are happiest during their 60s . . . and just based on my own experience, I would agree with that. But what happens as you get into your 70s and 80s and 90s, especially if you suffer from chronic pain, that's probably another story. However, I wouldn't let negative stereotypes in the media get you down -- or we'd all be in trouble since the media offers up negative stereotypes for everyone, from clueless guys to ditsy women to stupid kids.

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    1. I have read and experienced the same thing about happiness in one's 60s. My dad is almost 90. Ask him how his day is going and the answer is always the same: "fantastic!" Attitude really does play a significant role.

      TV shows rarely portray anyone as truly normal, otherwise why watch? We have to feel better about ourselves by comparing our lives to the dolts on TV.

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    2. Steve in Los AngelesTue Sep 24, 08:49:00 PM MST

      Thank you, Bob. Fortunately, my self-esteem is good. Therefore, I do not need to compare myself with anyone. At my home, I do not subscribe to any television service and my television stays OFF! Consequently, I protect my brain from that mental "mush" called television and save myself a lot of money.

      During the last several years of my Dad's life, I gave my Dad my undivided attention. Almost every Saturday and Sunday, I picked up my Dad at the board and care residence where he lived and took him everywhere he wanted to go. We always went out to eat at one of the several restaurants he liked. We both enjoyed each other's company very much. My Dad was a real joy to be around. I know without a doubt that by my keeping my Dad busy and active, at least on the weekend days, kept him happy and extended his life by at least a few years. (I wish I could have done the same for my Mom. Unfortunately, her health was so poor that she could not go anywhere except to the doctors' offices.) My Dad has been gone for almost eleven years; my Mom has been for close to fourteen years. I miss both of my parents very much. Nonetheless, I cherish all of the wonderful years we had together.

      There is one thing I want to emphasize. My Mom and Dad both were wonderful parents. They both deserved, earned, and received my unconditional respect. To do otherwise would have been unconscionable.

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  7. A lot of studies on aging suggest that as we get older, we become "more" of who we were when we were younger. So I would agree in general that if you were mean-spirited when you were young, you likely will be so when you are old. If you were kind when you were young, then likewise, as you age.

    Given that, you point out that medical issues can cause problems as well. You point out low testosterone as one. In addition, anger can be one of the symptoms of a clinical depression. Under-active thyroid can cause low moods, hyperactive thyroid can cause someone to become short with people. As you point out, chronic pain can be absolutely debilitating and influence our moods. The list goes on...

    I think an important "take home point" would be that if you see a change in personality that persists beyond a couple of weeks in yourself, or your loved one, then it is time to investigate further to rule out any medical causes. It is possible that some of the causes may be treated. If not, then at least understanding the cause may help the individual and their loved ones be more empathic about the situation, and hopefully be more patient with ourselves and each other.

    I agree with Tamara that generally speaking, I tend to avoid negative people. The negative energy is absolutely draining. Unfortunately this isolates unhappy people even more. All the more reason for friends and family to pay attention to changes in personality or mood, and intervene in a kind supportive way to get to the root of the problem, and hopefully bring about a positive change.

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    1. Carole summed up her last point so much better than I did! Please '+1' one accordingly.

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    2. I am quite pleased that this post has opened up such a good mix of comments. There is no simple answer to old age crankiness. Your point about noticing and reacting to a change is an important one. Caught early there may be a way to reverse a slide into a funk of negativity.

      Thanks, Carole.

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  8. I have found that , at any age, folks I know who have a sense of a Spiritual center in their lives, and people who give to others in some fashion, seem to be the most happy, least grumpy. Not religious people,mind you, but those who believe in SOME power higher than themselves.

    I was always taught when you're feeling sorry for yourself, just get out and do something for someone else and your attitude will quickly change!

    I have also seen people in our extended family who mourned the passing of their pretty looks, their more vibrant youthful health, and the passing of time in general. (the grumpy ones!) and there's family who absolutely embrace their elder years and the serenity and slowing down it's bringing for them.

    Several of my best friends are women in their 70's who are still very active in their careers, both are in the helping professions.. and they are so joyful to be around!!To me, this is a signpost that having purpose of some kind, whether it is work or volunteering or hobbies that spur your passion, and focusing on others for at least part of the time, is a good way to go..

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    1. Your comment about spirituality is one I want to reinforce. Faith can be a tremendously important anchor when life is starting to spin out of control. If a person sees himself as part of a larger whole there is a sense that whatever one is experiencing there is a purpose or a reason for it all. Studies have clearly shown that a person with a spiritual belief system is happier and more likely to handle aging issues better than someone without one.

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  9. Bob, I was in our super market parking lot waiting for Malcolm to come out of the store when I observed this very REAL phenomenon. An old guy proceeded to turn his car UP the DOWN lane in an attempt to score a desirable parking space - only to be displaced by ME, who was abiding by the rules. He obviously understood that he could not confront me, since I had first hand knowledge of his digression, so he proceeded to assault another "unsuspecting" soul who had not been a witness his actions. He seemed intent on picking a fight, for absolutely no reason. I heard him screaming to a lady that she should not be in such a hurry. He deliberately blocked her exit as he proceeded to turn his car around and claim another spot. It was all so needless and sadly humorous. I understand testosterone loss for men, and equally menopause for women, but we still have free will and personally, I choose to be civilized.

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    1. One of the factors we haven't raised yet is the detached nature of society today. Texting, voice mail, and even blog comments have replaced actual personal interaction for many. Without interaction a sense of common courtesy is lost. Your story may not apply to this particular man, but he is just a vivid example of our loss of community and civil interaction with each other.

      Sad

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  10. Your Blof seems to infer that being a grumpy old cuss is a BAD thing !

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  11. I think in many cases that grumpy old man is in fact depressed. Depressed people can be incredibly bad tempered- how would you be if everything looked bleak every day of your life? There's no "snap out of it" or "look on the bright side" that's going to help. That grumpy old man may be depressed because he's not who he was, or because his wife has died, or he's just without a reason to be. Depression can steal away a person's life so please if you see someone like that, it may not be that they are just miserable old sods - it's because they are hurting and don't know why.

    I don't speak from direct personal experience but I have lived with someone suffering through depression and it is baffling and usually not recognized by the person and often not by those closest to them. I have also seen the turnaround that can happen with proper treatment and counseling. It's not quick and it's not easy but seeing the return to their "normal" selves pre-depression state is well worth the effort. One thing I do know is that those of us not suffering cannot imagine what it's like.

    - David

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    1. You are exactly right, David. Depression can be a major issue for those in this stage of life. There are multiple reasons but the depression is a very real condition. Carole made the point in an earlier comment that if we notice someone going through an obvious personality change, we should help that person confront and deal with the underlying issue, be it depression or a medical condition.

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  12. My father turned into the person I think he started off as when he hit his 70s. He became wonderfully caring and chose to mentor. He died in his early 80's. He did spend some time being angry with those who were hurtful to him as well...which was not fun for them.
    I think you make a choice in your late 50's/ early 60's. you can choose to embrace who you have become emotionally or you can move a different direction.
    For many women I know, embracing their choices, being ok with them and loving life, moves them forward in a content place. Men seem to have to either revert to their young years or stay in their "slaying the enemy" stance of their work world. One brings contentment, the other grumpy.
    The happiest people I currently know are not necessarily spiritual, but in touch with the person they want to be.

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    1. Good story about your dad. I'm not sure what the trigger is but at some point as we age we choose to celebrate life or hide from it. The "slaying the enemy" is a good way to describe that mind set.

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  13. I think the most important thing in the last few posts relates to the word "choice!" We really do get to choose how we respond to life.

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  14. Oh this is such a hot button for me! The photo at the top could be my father in law. He's going to be 95 in about a month, and wants to live to be 100, even though he hasn't lived in years. He is still angry at his mother for things that happened when he was a child. Refuses to try and see both sides, (I know because I've spent too many hours trying to help him get past it), and as a result he is just a bitter old cuss. He hasn't really 'lived' in a very long time.
    I've come to the conclusion he never really was a very nice man. He did what he felt was expected of him, with his family, but he never really showed any love. He is incredibly self-centered. He's also the KING of passive aggressive behavior.
    The result of all this is, we are on the front line of seeing to his care due to geography, and it's draining and difficult. He's not grateful for a damn thing. We have, fortunately found a lovely place, right here in the city, for him to live comfortably and independently (as independent as he can be) until his mind fails him, which is happening pretty quickly.
    I guess what I'm getting at is...he's now just a grumpier version of who he always was, but we are on the receiving end more than we EVER wanted to be.
    b

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    1. I wouldn't wish your situation on anyone. But, family obligations continue, regardless of the upset it causes. I assume your husband feels the same way about his dad's attitude and demeanor.

      My mother-in-law spent the last 30 years of her life very bitter and unhappy with her lot in life. In that instance her husband cared for her until her death. They lived in Florida and had no interest in moving to be closer to us. Betty had a very strained relationship with her mom and her father, while smiling and pleasant, was emotionally distant from the family.

      As earlier comments have pointed out, sometimes being unpleasant and grumpy has a physical cause or is the result of depression. But, as your story makes clear, some people are just going to have a very large chip on their shoulder just because they choose to. It is very sad when efforts to remove that "chip" are rebuffed.

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  15. I think there's an analog to the grumpy old man stereotype and that's the paranoid old woman. That scares me, as I've seen several aging women become more and more paranoid about the dangers of modern life. I also would like to comment on the amount that health might be impacting these situations, however. I have always been an optimistic person, and as I moved into my 60's, I looked forward to the next healthy decade I thought I had earned. I am vegan, I thought good thoughts, I cared about other people and was spiritual, and I mountain biked, kayaked, jogged and worked out with weights. Then I was hit with an auto-immune illness that brought much pain and weakness. The most distressing (to me) impact was that the illness colored my mood. That mood change wasn't a result of the pain: that change, that sense of doom-and-gloom--came in tandem with the bad days, not because of them. It was often my first signal of an oncoming flare. My primary viewpoint--optimism--usually manages to reassert itself, but I have learned just to acknowledge that yes, this day I do feel more anxious, and yes, that feeling is related to my diagnosed auto-immune illness and not the reality of my overall situation or the state of the world, and yes, this, too, will pass. However, I have the support of a wonderful husband and loving daughters and grandchildren. Otherwise, I would often be isolated. What about those left to stew in their physical symptoms and the other manifestations of ill health that they did not, in fact, escape?

    Also, I agree with the writer who mentions how difficult it is to confront the portrayals of older people on television and in other media. I occasionally write to a sponsor and politely point out the impact because I think it's important. I remain optimistic that our voices can change things.

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    1. The females in my family have not exhibited this paranoid type behavior but I fully accept what you are describing and its negative impact on one's life. It certainly seems logical there would be a female parallel to the male grumpiness condition.

      I like your realistic approach to the fact that negative days, grumpy periods, and anxious periods will occur as part of life, but they will pass and life moves on. My wife has an auto-immune condition that does put her in the dumps every month or so (no, not menopause). I can see it coming, know it will be rough for a day or so, and then things will return to a sunnier state. We simply accept it and live with it.

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  16. Great post. I think it's also partially because we feel we have so little time left that we'll say what we think, and damn the consequences.

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  17. Sometimes, it's good to be near the end of the comments. From all this, I conclude that much can be said for the idea that whatever we were in early life becomes magnified as we age. Other than that, it seems doubtful that organized religion is a positive factor or that a whole lot of "healthy eating" and exercise helps us out a great deal as we age (I've been heavily engaged in both for a long time, but not so much lately). Get up and look upon another beautiful day and be happy you are still here!

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    1. I will respectfully disagree with your conclusion that religion is a positive factor. In fact, I have seen several studies that show a direct correlation between happiness and faith. Now, we could certainly make the point that organized religion is not necessary for a life of faith, though a community of believers is important. But, a strong sense of spirituality does contribute to a longer, healthier, and happier life.

      Any day on this side of the grass should be a good one.

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    2. Uh, oh. Perhaps I should clarify my earlier comments. Eating well, being spiritual, and exercising may not have protected me from getting an auto-immune illness, but at almost 64, I don't need medications other than those needed for the auto-immune illness and I have escaped the heart-attack-and-bypass-and-diabetes-by-60 syndrome that is so prevalent in my family. I don't want to leave the impression that those didn't matter, but only that you can't always earn a healthy old age. I'm certainly healthier than I would have been otherwise.

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  18. My neighbor was grumpy old man,but since he became slightly demented we became friends because he is
    happier and kind .
    Wimmera

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    1. Interesting...a positive from a negative

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  19. This has been a "cause" of mine for several years now. Women will actually take responsibility for this and change their whole lives to make a man happy. In a recent advertisement for the low t drugs they finally mentioned mood changes. Women take hormones to keep themselves in balance so they won't make everyone miserable and are now paying the price with cancer, etc.

    It seems to me that what we need is some good exchanges of idea and a better understanding that BOTH men and women are affected by hormone changes.

    Thank you for this article Bob. You are right on in this one.

    Barbara

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    1. Our changes may not be as dramatic as a woman's menopause, but guys go through a hormonal sea change, too. Coupled with physical changes that can hit directly at a man's maleness (ED, for one) and we have a lot to deal with. But, being men means we tend to ignore it or just project it outwards.

      Thanks, Barbara. We all need to accept what is happening to us and seek help.

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  20. As I enter my 60's, I am reading everything I can about how to prevent myself from becoming an unhappy, passive-agressive, grumpy old woman. Aside from the vanity factor -- grumpy people's faces seem to age faster -- there is the health factor. I am finding out that for me, LETTING GO OF THE PAST AND NOT SECOND-GUESSING DECISIONS MADE IN TIMES OF YORE -- is helping me achieve the goal of being the "fun, pleasant old lady everyone wants to hang out with."

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    1. We can't change the past and we can't accurately predict the future, so all that leaves is the present. That's where your goal of being a fun and pleasant old lady will be achieved. Good for you!

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  21. My retired Marine hubby, now 55, has always been a man of few words and a tad grumpy. He travels a lot for work, and when home he has a 1.5 hr commute each way - he does it without complaint (suck it up, he calls it). He is in chronic pain 24/7. He's had 5 surgeries in the past few years and several out-patient procedures; he has two more upcoming surgeries (2nd knee replacement and a neck fusion). He is on bio-identical testosterone and thyroid replacement - but, due to all the pain, it's hard to notice any difference. The hardest part for me is that he flat-out refuses all my help... and he does it with grunts or plain old "NO!" in a harsh tone. (I'm talking about "Hey honey, would you like to sit in the more comfortable chair?" or "Why don't you drive my car since it has more leg room for you?" or "Would you like me to get you some ice or heating pad?") He treats the two dogs more kindly than he treats me...at least he talks to them! It is very difficult to watch someone in pain and be totally inept to fix it. But it is compounded by the lack of manners or appreciation for the efforts to help, and feeling like I'm just some piece of nuisance in his life. I love him to pieces, but it is taking its toll on me.

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    1. I imagine the military mindset has a lot to do with not wanting to ask for or accept help, but constant pain can wear down anyone and make them more than a little grumpy.

      Importantly, while those may be explanations, they don't justify his lack of respect and understanding. Making others hurt while you do is not acceptable. The best I can do is emphasize with your unpleasant situation

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    2. Or perhaps "empathize" with her unpleasant situation. I hope "Anonymous" has a good support system of friends/family members whom she can connect with on a regular basis to let off steam since Retired Marine Hubby is not in a good place emotionally and physically.

      People who choose to stay with grumpy spouses need to remember that they have a very important relationship to tend to -- the relationship they have with themselves and with a Higher Power if they believe in God. If you're living with a negative person, YOU need to be your own best friend. How? By appreciating yourself and respecting yourself and loving yourself. Give yourself, through inner self-talk, the supportive messages you wish you were receiving (and may never get) from your spouse. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion and love because you deserve it. Pray for yourself and pray for all others. Create a serene space within yourself -- a personal retreat -- that remains out of reach from the strangling tentacles of others' negativity. At the end of life, each of us is answerable for our own actions, not the actions of others. http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research24.html.

      Thank you, Bob Lowry, for a terrific blog post!

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    3. Emphasize would certainly be wrong!

      Taking care of oneself is a vital point. As you summarize so well, ultimately all we can control is how we react and behave.

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  22. I just try to comment after a year as a passed by. I have searched for old grumpy men who turned happy again. I did not find one. Could that be true?

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