Dear Dr. Weeks: Do People Get More Eccentric With Age?

Dear Dr. Weeks:

I would think that as people get older their eccentricities would become more evident as they would be more able to express themselves freely. Instead I find the opposite. Most senior citizens are total conformists who don’t want to deviate from the pack in any way.

Are my observations valid? Do tendencies to express yourself change with age?

- Carol

Dear Carol,

Generally speaking, eccentric people become more eccentric with age. However, eccentric people do not become eccentric in old age; most eccentrics become eccentric in childhood or adolescence.

The great majority of people become more risk averse and conservative as they age. If a person, especially a male, were first to show eccentric behaviour in old age, as a clinician I would consider other causes. It would suggest illness, either of a psychiatric or physical nature.

However, where there are higher concentrations of older retired people — in Britain, around the seacoast — there will be more older eccentric people, perhaps because eccentrics tend to live longer.

Yours Sincerely,