I began to realize that “old age” grumpiness had little to do with age and more to do with circumstances when I returned home after college. This was my post college housing situation. Two days after graduation, my parents moved out of our childhood home and my sister and her family moved in, allowing my grandparents and I to stay with them. There I was. I had lived with my grandparents precollege, but when returning home, things were different.
For one, my grandparents and I were four years older. I was more aware of their challenges and they were aging into their older years. Both our rooms were on the top floor of the house and for much of my life, we shared a wall. From this stained white wall grew in me a greater compassion for the older population. Through it, I overheard my grandparent’s conversations. I was fully aware of their sighs. When they groaned in bed, I was right there with my head rested on my pillow. I heard their midnight shuffles to the bathroom get slower and more frequent. I heard and pretty much old aged a little with them.
Now during my post college years, I worked at a huge retirement community with almost 3000 residents. So aside from my grandparents who I lived with, I saw hundreds of seniors daily. With that much exposure, I came to realize that some of the grumpiness that my grandparents and other seniors have could be largely a result of pain. Herein we start our dissection. (Get those gloves on!)
1. Blame it on Pain
If you think someone is grumpy simply because of age, think again. Blame the grumpiness not on their age, but consider blaming it on their pain.
Example. I knew a man who was 95+ who everyone considered grumpy. Honestly, he was…. There was a period of time where he was exceptionally grumpy though. And well, we just assumed he was getting older, thus grumpier. He would yell at people. He made some people cry. He was just difficult. He even hit someone once who was sincerely trying to help. My compassion for him arrived when I realized that his pain was really PAINFUL. Elementary stuff I know yet sometimes we forget that when in pain, people aren’t able to act pretty or nice. You don’t always speak in a calm manner. You don’t always use polite words. Sometimes you kick, you punch, you scream. In short, you have much less control over your emotions. For this man, his body had been breaking down for awhile (goodness, he was close to 100!). In particular, he had a wound after a fall and it wasn’t healing. It hurt. It made walking and everything for that matter more difficult. So snapping at people was a natural reaction to the pain.
To give you some perspective, two years ago, I had conjunctivitis aka inflammation of the eye and that made me pretty grumpy. I held it in for the most part, but my calm demeanor only lasted for about a week. I had to wear my glasses all the time and it not only made me feel ugly and sleepy, it just made things difficult. It made running harder. It made working and looking at the computer screen harder at the office. It made driving harder. In my case, I could have classified it less as pain and more as discomfort. But even that made me grumpy. Just like cold sores and sprained ankles and tooth aches can make you and I angry and mad. And just grumpy (For more perspective on old age grumpiness, check out A Dissection of Old Age Grumpiness-#2 and A Dissection of Old Age Grumpiness-#3