Jul 26, 2022

Unfiltered: Tactless comments from seniors could be viewed as rudeness

Recently, footage of a teenage busker being reduced to tears due to some unfiltered advice from a senior has sparked outrage online.

In the video, an elderly man approaches an 18-year-old singer, Mia Kirkland, and said “some people have it, but you don’t” to the visibly stunned teenager. 

He then followed this statement by critiquing the tone of her voice and stated that he had previously worked with legendary vocalist, Diana Ross.

Understandably, both the busker and the millions of people that viewed the footage were quick to dismiss the elderly man’s behaviour as rude.

However, a deeper understanding of the effects of ageing on the brain reveals that some tactless actions by older cohorts may be an unintentional consequence of longevity rather than a purposeful attempt at offending.

Interactions and commentary that are deemed unacceptable in traditional social settings are not uncommon in aged care, but a broader understanding of these behaviours helps to soften the blow and allows staff to continue on unperturbed.

Grey matters

As we age, shrinkage of the brain, which is referred to as ‘brain atrophy’, affects the way that our brain cells communicate. This is particularly noticeable in the brain’s frontal lobes which can result in a loss of inhibition and difficulties in navigating social situations.

Ongoing increases in behaviour of this kind can also be a sign of deeper issues such as brain injury, stroke or forms of dementia.

Evidence of the elderly’s increased propensity for uninhibited behaviour and a lack of social cognition can be found in research that was conducted at the University of New South Wales.

According to the study, people between the ages of 65 and 93 were more likely to ask each other personal questions in a public setting than younger age groups.

Despite the increased likelihood of this behaviour, the study also found that older people were just as likely to agree that asking personal questions in a public setting was socially unacceptable.

“It’s not just that older people were more likely than younger people to ask personal questions,” wrote Professor Bill von Hippel.

“In fact, young people in our study were more likely to ask each other questions of a personal nature, but they usually did so in private.”

Tell me what you really think

While the effects of ageing on the brain and cognitive disease provide sound reasoning for unsociable behaviour by seniors, these actions can also be the result of older people getting fed up holding their tongue. 

Some studies indicate that older people are less self-conscious than other aged groups and experience emotions like guilt, shame and embarrassment less than younger adults.

Despite the slew of issues that can arise with uninhibited behaviours, it appears that there may be an upside to cathartic commentary as research also shows that older adults have higher overall levels of happiness and life satisfaction than younger age groups. 

Taking into account the host of factors that can be in play when an older person utters an inappropriate remark, the best course of action is to try and not take things too personally.

However, if this behaviour is out of character, ongoing and coming from a loved one, you should consider raising the issue with a medical professional. 

So what do you think? Was the older man criticising the young singer providing uninhibited advice or just being plain rude? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. Having considerable experience with older persons I agree that they often speak their mind without any thought as to the feelings of the other person. This may often be in contrast to their younger personalities. They just don’t care any more. Sometimes this is cognitive decline, other times a case if being fed up with what they consider to be ‘rubbish’. I know myself, now that I am a bit older, I really don’t care what people think, and can be a bit outspoken especially if I think it is warranted. However, I would never harshly criticise a young person who is doing their best.


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