How to Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen

Three Methods:Figuring Out the IssueBeing PatientFinding a Solution

Maybe you are dealing with an irritable elderly neighbor. Or perhaps an older family member seems to be regularly out of sorts. Whatever your individual situation, dealing with a cranky senior citizen can be very difficult. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to improve the situation and make both of your lives easier. Remember, just because you might communicate differently, the senior citizen still has feelings, too.

Method 1
Figuring Out the Issue

  1. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 1
    Assess the situation. When dealing with an irritable elderly person, your first step is to try to figure out what the problem is. Is it evident what is bothering them? For example, do they seem to be struggling to get groceries inside the house during nasty weather? If so, that's probably why they're cranky.[1]
    • If you can't tell at a glance what the problem is, try to dig a little deeper. If your neighbor or relative seems cranky for no discernible reason, try to use communication to figure out what might be the problem.
  2. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 2
    Consider external factors. Keep in mind that elderly people are often dealing with an extra set of attributes that can affect their mood. For instance, as people age, their bodies are changing. It is entirely possible that the elderly person in question is dealing with physical pain that you don't know about. That could certainly affect their mood.[2]
    • Many older citizens are on several different types of medication. Often, different prescriptions can have negative affects on a person's mood. Be aware that your elderly friend might be crabby because of medication, not because of an immediate issue.
  3. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 3
    Ask questions. When trying to figure out why a person is irritable, the most straight-forward and effective way is to ask questions. You don't have to pry, but you can try asking a series of open-ended questions. By opening up a conversation, you might be able to ascertain the cause of irritability.[3]
    • For example, instead of just saying "How are you?", use a more open-ended version such as, "How's your day going? What's on your agenda for the day?". Using open-ended questions will not only provide you with more information, but will allow your relative to vent some frustrations.
    • Make sure to speak clearly. Some older people suffer from hearing loss. They might not necessarily be cranky--maybe they just didn't hear you when you said hello.
  4. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 4
    Listen carefully. When you initiate a conversation with an elderly person, make sure that you are being an active listener. Focus all of your attention of the conversation. Make the older person feel like you really value what they are saying.[4]
    • There are several ways you can demonstrate that you are fully engaged in the conversation. Make sure to make eye contact. Also paraphrase what the elderly person is saying, and ask questions throughout the conversation.
  5. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 5
    Don't take it personally. Remember that when an elderly person is irritable, it likely is not your fault. Sometimes you might be the only person they are interacting with that day, so they unfairly take their anger out on you. Try not to take their negativity to heart.[5]
    • When you remember not to take it personally, you will become more objective. That will allow you to step back from the situation and more clearly assess the problem.

Method 2
Being Patient

  1. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 6
    Change your perspective. Remember that generational gaps can cause issues in communication. When there is a big difference in age, there can also be significant differences in opinions and and views.Try to be respectful of the elderly person's view point. Shift your perspective to try to see where they are coming from.
    • Asking questions can be a great way to help you change your perspective. Getting more information can help you understand the elderly person's point of view.
  2. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 7
    Take a deep breath. Sometimes it can be very frustrating to deal with an irritable person. It can even feel like nothing you do is right. Often the best thing you can do is just to calm yourself down and mentally reset.[6]
    • Practice deep breathing. Take several lengthy inhales, and take measured exhales. This will lower your heart-rate--and your stress level.
  3. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 8
    Take a break. It can sometimes be very useful to take a time-out from a frustrating situation. If you feel like the other person's cranky nature is negatively affecting you, it is normal to feel like you need a mental break. Taking a step back can allow you to calm down and return to the conversation when you are mentally refreshed.[7]
  4. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 9
    Focus on the positives. Remember that you are interacting with this person for a reason. Chances are that there is something that you like about them. For example, maybe it is your elderly aunt who is routinely cranky. Try to focus on remembering the fun you used to have making Christmas cookies with her.[8]
    • If the irritable person is a fairly new acquaintance, it might be a little harder to think of something positive. Try to find a detail that is positive. For example, if the cranky person is your neighbor, maybe focus on the fact that they never have noisy parties.

Method 3
Finding a Solution

  1. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 10
    Offer to help. Once you have determined what the problem is you can extend an offer to help. Make sure that your offer is genuine--do not offer to help if you are unable to or do not sincerely want to. Instead, extend an sincere and concrete offer of assistance.[9]
    • For example, your elderly mother might be having difficulty taking care of her home. Ask her if she would like you to hire a cleaning service or help her find an assisted care living situation.
  2. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 11
    Be empathetic. Being empathetic means that you try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Once you know why this person is cranky, try to think about how you would feel in their situation. Then try to determine what would make you feel better.[10]
    • Elderly people are often lonely and this can account for their unfriendly disposition. Offer your company, and suggest an activity the two of you can do together, such as playing a card game.
  3. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 12
    Ask for assistance. You might not be able to solve the other person's problem. Especially if you do not know the elderly person well, the situation might be out of your hands. What you can do instead is ask for assistance. Try reaching out to close friends or relatives of the elderly person to see what they suggest.
  4. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 13
    Provide resources. Most cities have senior centers where older people can go for recreational activities. Other organizations, such as churches and libraries, also offer programs geared towards seniors. You could look up some local resources and provide that information to your neighbor or relative. This could be potentially very helpful and go a long way towards lifting their mood.[11]
  5. Image titled Deal with a Cranky Senior Citizen Step 14
    Remain positive. It can be very draining to deal with a cranky senior citizen. The most important thing you can do is to remain positive. Remember that you are doing a good thing by being kind and helpful. Even if your help is not obviously appreciated, you are probably making an impact.[12]
    • Smile. When it is difficult to remain positive, try putting a smile on your face. Even if it feels false at first, the simple act of smiling will make you feel better and help you maintain a good attitude.


  • Remember that a friendly smile goes a long way.
  • Remember that you are communicating with a fellow adult; treat them as such.
  • If an elderly person is aggressive, treat them the same way that you would treat anyone who is aggressive; keep your distance, be polite, and call for assistance. Seek psychological help if needed where the elderly person is someone in your care.
  • They might have panic attacks. If they do, take them to another room to relax, try to calm them down by distracting them with a conversation, remind them to take deep breathe and that everything is okay.


  • Geriatric depression is very common and can be a cause of irritability.

Article Info

Categories: Aged Care