How Grief may affect older people

As people get older, bereavements occur more frequently. Older people commonly endure loss of a husband, wife or partner, other relatives, friends, former colleagues and associates. Widowhood is usual and because women generally live longer there are more widowed women than men.

Loss through bereavement is a major stress on older people, and along with other losses experienced in old age, can reduce people’s ability to cope and be independent.

How does bereavement affect older people?

Older people’s responses vary greatly and coping with loss is not necessarily a by-product of being older. Other losses in an older person’s life will affect how they grieve the loss of someone close:

  • existing health conditions
  • communication and cognitive difficulties
  • reduced social support
  • changed living arrangements i.e. moving to sheltered housing
  • financial difficulties.

However, people will also experience ageing in ways that will help them to cope and adapt to losses:

  • reciprocal support of and for family and friends
  • better health for longer
  • financial stability
  • ability to work or contribute to society in a range of ways.

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