Seeing your older adultsthrow tantrums or lash out at anybody can be unsettling. When we see them do itfor the first time, we don’t know what to do. It can beembarrassing sometimes, especially when they shout at neighbors, house helps,etc. Some of us may start to think of the reasons that may be causing it. Thereare many reasons that can cause older adults to get angry.  Read on to find what these reasons could beand how you can care for your older adults, so they don’t act out.

anger management in elderly

What causes angerissues in older adults?

Cause of outbursts in elderly includes1:


Dementia isprogressive decline of cognitive functions like memory, comprehension, focus,etc. This often leads to confusion and inability to communicate needs tocaregivers. So, when older adults don’t get exactly what they want, they tendto get angry and lash out on people surrounding them.

Physical discomfort 

It is often hard for elderly, especially theolder adults with Alzheimer’s disease to articulate their experiences andexpress their discomfort. When they’re unable to do so, it may come out as anaggression.  


Olderadults who have previously lived a calm and peaceful life may get irritatedwhen they’re surrounded with loud people. This can easily irritate them andtrigger them to act out.

Side effects

Older adults often take medications for multiplechronic conditions. These medications can have side effects, leading tofrequent episodes of aggression in elderly.


Older adults, especially the ones with dementia, are likelyto throw a tantrum when they’re feeling hungry. It’s important that weunderstand they’re not doing so on purpose, instead their condition isresponsible for it.

Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep can make elderly irritated andaggressive. It’s important that they have enough sleep. Feeling tired is commonin senior years.


Older adults with dementia are likely to get angry whenthey’re surrounded by unfamiliar people, be it home or outside. Loud andcluttered places are also likely to over-stimulate older adults, causing themto act out.

Why anger may increase with age?

Older adults go throughhormonal changes as they grow older. Men, for instance, may see decrease in thelevels of testosterone (hypogonadism). Similarly, in women, estrogen levelsbegin to decline. 2 This can affect circadian rhythm and cause sleepdeprivation, which may cause older adults to become grumpy.

anger management issue

Effects of increased anger with age

Occasional anger or outbursts are okay, but frequent anger issues can causeharm to mental and physical health. Harmful effects of anger, includes3-

1. Inflammation
 2. Cardiovascular diseases
3. Arthritis
4. Cancer

What are the ways to manage anger inolder adults: Anger Management Tips

Dealing with older adultswith anger problems is not easy. However, you can take simple steps to managethe problem.

Identify what triggered the anger 

Try to go back to the scene whereyour older adult acted out and figure out what caused the reaction. Once you’veidentified the trigger, take steps to suppress the triggers.

Rule out physical pain

Elderlieswith dementia are likely to act out when they’re in pain. If pain caused yourloved older adult to lash out, speaking to a geriatric health care practitionerwould be a good thing to do. The practitioner may prescribe a painkiller orother appropriate medicine/procedure does not alleviate pain.

Yoga, meditation, and exercise

Older adults, especially withturbulent relationships, may experience stress due to unresolved issues, whichcan cause anger. In such situations, yoga, meditation, and physical exerciseshelp relieve stress and calm the mind.


Conscious of their age, elderlies may bottle up theiremotions, for the which can occasionally erupt as anger. Counselling withgeriatric therapists may help older adults to speak their heart out and relievethe bottled-up emotions.

Benefits of anger management for elderly

Practicing angermanagement offers multiple benefits for elderly, including -

Improved quality of relationships

Frequent outbursts oftenhamper relationships with loved ones. Caregivers may be discouraged to do theirbest, when they see their elderly biting their head off. Older adults whopractice anger management may see improvement in their relationships with theirloved ones and friends.

Better physical and mental health

There is a close link between physical and emotional health. A studyconducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that angercan lead to development of chronic illnesses.3 So, if you practiceanger management, you will experience a relaxed mind, which will reflect ingood physical health too.

Take control of life

When you’re constantly angry it might seem that your life is getting out ofcontrol. Yoga and breathing exercises may help relax mind and body. Yoga isknown to improve psychological health in older adults.4 With a calmmind, older adults can feel their life in more control.

More self-awareness

When we’re able to control our emotions, we can think through clearly. Thishelps in understanding ourselves better. Older adults who practice angermanagement can understand their emotions better and act accordingly, instead ofbeing aggressive.  


Anger often indicates ourmental health. In the case of older adults, anger indicates both mental andphysical health. While occasional outbursts are a sign of healthy functioningof our body, frequent outburst can indicate underlying conditions, especiallyfor older adults. So, to manage anger it’s important to find its underlyingcause and take appropriate measures. Using above anger management tips, adultscan ensure the health of their elderlies. 


1.    Isanger a symptom of dementia?

Angeralone isn’t definitive of dementia. It is not a sure sign of dementia, butolder adults with dementia often show anger as a symptom.

2.    Whyis my 70-year-old husband so angry?

Olderadults can become grumpy as they age. It can also be a sign of dementia. Talkingto a physician or geriatrician can help.