Apathy In Elderly Adults: Is It An Issue?

Apathy in elderly adults can be annoying. When you’re enthusiastic about something and your loved one just doesn’t seem to care much, it can be frustrating. The same is true when your loved one loses interest in what used to bring them joy.

“Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.” – Horace Greeley

apathy emoji

You may have gotten used to it, so you just shrug it off by now, but apathy can also be warning sign. So don’t take it too lightly.

Although the Elmwood difference may be enough to raise many peoples’ spirits, for some the indifference may be a sign of something more serious.

It seems that apathy is shrugged off too often while coming at a high cost to society.

Though “apathy may be one of the most common behavioural symptoms of neurodegenerative and other brain disorders … it is [also] one of the most underrecognised, underdiagnosed, and poorly managed aspects of these diseases.”1

This, of course, doesn’t mean that you need to be concerned if your loved doesn’t always share your enthusiasm. What it does mean, though, is to pay attention and stay on top of their health.

Health Concerns

Apathy has been connected to various health conditions:

  • Parkinson’s disease (PD): In a meta-analysis2 using 23 studies, 39.8% of individuals with Parkinson’s disease had apathy.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: According to Ishii, Weintraub, and Mervis (2009), “apathy is primarily a dysfunction of the frontal-subcortical circuit and is associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.”3
  • Brain size: Researchers4 scanned 4,354 people with an average age of 76 using an MRI machine. They found that 2 or more symptoms of apathy correlated with 1.4% and 1.6% less gray and white matter, respectively.

The gray matter area is used for learning and storing memories and the white matter area connects different parts of the brain together.

What Apathy in elderly adults may Look Like

Adults suffering from apathy might show some of these symptoms:

  • Less energy
  • No interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Lack of emotional response to situations
  • Isolation
  • Lots of sleep
  • Avoiding people
  • Not leaving home
  • Less psychomotor capabilities
  • Not being attentive

So if you read this list and go, ‘yes, yes, yes,’ don’t panic, but do stay on top of your loved one’s overall health.

Do you deal with apathy in elderly adults?

How do you handle it?

Please share in the comments below. 


Elmwood Hills Healthcare Center does not take any responsibility for this post’s content. So any action you take based on its information is strictly at your own risk. You should always speak to your doctor about medical information and your health.

1 Leroi, Iracema, and Philippe H. Robert. “Apathy in the elderly: from assessment to treatment.” Current gerontology and geriatrics research 2012 (2012).

2 den Brok, Melina GHE, Jan Willem van Dalen, Willem A. van Gool, Eric P. Moll van Charante, Rob MA de Bie, and Edo Richard. “Apathy in Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta‐analysis.” Movement Disorders 30, no. 6 (2015): 759-769.

3 Ishii, Shinya, Nancy Weintraub, and James R. Mervis. “Apathy: a common psychiatric syndrome in the elderly.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 10, no. 6 (2009): 381-393.

4 https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1268