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Sept. 22, 2020, 10:12 a.m. EDT

Do our social skills fade as we age? Seniors may not like the answer

This is an issue for older people, or anyone with retired parents

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By Morey Stettner

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They may also struggle to adjust to the loss of their professional identity. With more time on their hands and less to do, they may stew in resentment over lost opportunities, perceived slights and other negative thoughts.

“The longer seniors have been retired, the less power and control they have over what they’re able to do,” said Brown, author of “Children of the Self-Absorbed.” “That produces changes in communication and mood.”

Repeated bouts of pain make matter worse. Someone who’s battling nagging injuries and illnesses might exhibit uncharacteristically negative personality traits.

‘When you’re in physical pain, it’s hard to get away from it,” Brown said. “Your behavior will change. Experiencing pain makes us a little more irritable and less connected.”

Some seniors figure that they’ve earned the right to act any way they want. While those with early-stage dementia may demonstrate a loss of inhibition and impulse control, others with flawless cognition may simply decide that there’s no longer much reason to worry about what others think of them.

“They may not care as much how they’re perceived,” Feder said. “Social norms may not matter as much.”

She cites an older couple that she’s known for eight years. Recently, the husband has started to make racist comments. (His cognition is fine and he shows no signs of dementia.) Despite his wife’s embarrassment, he continues to speak his mind.

“The elderly want to be heard,” Feder said. “They want to tell their stories” and give opinions, even if their listeners recoil.

Trying to alert an older person about troubling personality changes probably won’t go over well. Unless they ask for your input, it’s usually safer to keep quiet.

“People have to want to change,” said Rodica Damian, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston. “You can’t change somebody’s personality without them wanting to make the change.”

Morey Stettner is a writer in Portsmouth, N.H. He’s the author of five business books, including ”Skills for New Managers,” published by McGraw Hill.

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