I’m sure you know at least one grumpy old person.
And while they’re annoying to deal with, they’re not really bad people. Most of them are just incredibly lonely.
I talked to my parents’ friends and lurked around in places like r/askoldpeople on reddit to understand what older people had to say about loneliness.
I wanted to understand why some of them have become lonelier as they get older, if only because I wanted to avoid that same loneliness in the future.
Here in this article, I will share what I’ve learned and what behaviors tend to be shared between people who grow lonely as they age.
1) They’re extra suspicious of others
They’re paranoid and needlessly protective of themselves.
They think that everyone is out to get them, betray them, or make their life miserable.
Now sometimes there are valid reasons why people are this way. Those raised by narcissists tend to be unwilling to trust people, for example.
But unfortunately, their reasons don’t matter. What matters is if they remain suspicious of others because this affects their relationships.
If they pull away whenever they become “too close” with someone, or if they assume that people always have an ulterior motive, they’ll probably end up alone and lonely before they hit 50.
2) They’re self-absorbed
Another thing I notice among people who end up lonely (and unloved!) in their old age is that they’re self-absorbed—way too self-absorbed!
I speak from experience, in fact. One of my grandparents was someone who rarely thought of anyone but themselves.
I heard that back when they were younger, they used to end friendships because their friends were too busy to spend time with them.
My parents didn’t feel comfortable being around them, understandably. But it was them who kept complaining that they “didn’t feel welcome” in their own child’s home.
This “me, me, me” kind of attitude makes people want to cut them off.
3) They think play is just for kids
If they catch an adult friend playing games or nerding out about their hobbies, they’d scoff and tell them to focus on earning more money.
Give them a free ticket to Disneyland and they’ll turn it down, saying that it’s just a waste of time.
Often, however, it might just be that they hate fun in general, and that they think people who take the time to enjoy life are just “slackers.”
People don’t really appreciate being around people who actively ruin their fun, so they often end up being ignored and even abandoned by their friends.
4) They’re too rigid with their boundaries
Or rather, they say that they’re just trying to be “firm” with their boundaries. What’s actually going on is that they’re using it as an excuse to be selfish.
It’s important to set healthy boundaries and to enforce those boundaries.
It’s not like they HAVE to help other people or to accommodate their friends, especially if they simply can’t afford to give that help.
But if they could, but refuse to “just because”, then they might have taken their boundary-setting too far.
They might say things like “Why should I donate to charity? I’d rather put that money in my retirement fund!”
Or “why should I let them come over? I want my peace and quiet.”
It doesn’t matter that the charity in question has helped them in the past.
They don’t can’t care about anything else because they feel like doing so would take away something from them.
5) They’re not interested in making new friends
They only have a handful of friends, and they’re perfectly okay with that.
Are they exhausted from maintaining the few friendships they have now?
Did they have bad experiences that made them wary of strangers?
Are they resigned to the fact that they’ll part ways anyways?
Whatever the reason, they’ve decided it’s not worth the effort to grow their friend circle.
Now this might seem perfectly reasonable especially if they’re an introvert. If they truly have hit their limit, they shouldn’t force themselves at all!
But everyone leaves and dies, sadly. And if they’re not interested in making new friends at all, then as they grow older they’ll see their already-small friend circle grow even smaller.
6) They still long for the past
It’s normal to yearn. Even at 38, I often find myself longing for simpler, happier times.
And the older people get, the stronger this yearning gets.
People who live a happy, satisfying life often end up managing to keep this yearning under control. They would reminisce about the past, but not get lost in it.
Meanwhile, those who had a hard life often get so caught up by their memories of the past that they simply couldn’t enjoy the present.
Those who “fell from grace” have it especially hard.
They would be too busy reliving happier times and wondering about how different their lives could have been.
Their happiness is in the past, not the present. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to bring the past back, which means that happiness is forever out of their reach.
7) They don’t look forward to the future
I have an uncle who’s in his 60s but has so much life in him that one could almost imagine that he’s half his age.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s been keeping himself fit for his ultimate dream—climbing Mount Everest.
His younger brother, on the other hand, can easily fool you into thinking that he’s 70, and not 50.
He’s given up on his ambitions and for the past thirty years has done nothing but work in an office day in and day out.
And I can say that it was the younger uncle who feels like he’s old, unloved, and way past his prime.
He’s convinced himself that he’s too old to dream, and everyone knows him as a bit of a downer.
It honestly doesn’t matter how old you are. Dare to dream, and have hope for the future. It’s how you can avoid becoming grumpy and miserable.
8) They get annoyed over the littlest things
There are just some old people who somehow find a way to complain about every little thing that annoys them—even if it’s none of their business!
They might complain about how you park your car, tell you that your dog is “noisy”, and even file complaints about how “untidy” your lawn looks!
They’re so petty that you could swear that it’s almost as if they’re just trying to find things to complain about.
You can bet that they’re lonely. Very few people are willing to tolerate being around someone this eager for a fight.
9) They’re unwilling to learn and adapt
We live in a world that moves and changes very, very quickly.
So if someone is unwilling to change and approach every new year with an open mind, they’ll inevitably fall behind the times.
There’s the stereotype that old people are unwilling to change or learn, and because of that, they’re behind the times.
But it’s not their age.
Old people can adapt to our ever-changing world just fine!
It’s just who they are. Most of these “outdated” old people were just as inflexible back when they were in their teens.
As old people, this unwillingness to change often makes them pariahs and embarrassments to their loved ones.
Nobody in their right mind would want to be associated with their racist, misogynistic grandpa, after all.
10) They’re painfully indifferent
They’re too “meh” about everything.
They simply can’t be bothered to care.
From big things like climate change and hate crimes to smaller things like their neighbor’s dog falling sick, they have one general reaction—meh.
You might think “but what if they simply don’t want the stress?”
Well, that’s not what’s going on here.
There’s a very clear difference between “I want to protect my mental health” and “I don’t really give a damn.”
It’s perfectly okay to avoid getting involved in issues for the sake of your own mental health.
Dismissing those issues entirely, however, is not. It’s a jerk move.
And that is precisely why people don’t want to humor them too much.
Unfortunately enough for them, this will lead to them growing old, lonely and unloved.
If a lot of these points describe someone you hold dear, refrain from judging them too quickly.
Try to understand why they’re that way.
Try to help them if you can and keep them company. Maybe they’re just painfully depressed and need someone to pull them out.
Just keep in mind not to tell them something like “if you don’t stop this, you’ll be all alone when you’re older!”
On the other hand, if you find yourself mildly attacked by what you’ve read, don’t worry. It’s not like you’re doomed to be lonely when you grow old.
Just slowly let go of the behaviors above and your twilight years will be more enjoyable.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.