In families, some of the crises related to older family members include death, abuse, and ageism. The death of a spouse, especially if married for several decades, represents a profound personal loss, with loneliness often being an inevitable outcome. Most individuals are resilient to some extent, however, and though they may bend, they do not break. Complicated grief tends to exist in less than 10 percent of individuals. Lesbian and gay bereaved individuals have an especially difficult time with a death, which is viewed by some – who deny the legitimacy of the relationship – as disenfranchised grief. Suicide rate is also relatively high among older adults.

Abuse of older family members comes in many forms including financial, emotional, and physical. Older adults are at greater risk of abuse than other age categories. Different theories exist to explain abuse of older adults in families, including social exchange theory, the situational model, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, structural functionalism, social learning theory, ecological theory, and feminist theory.

Ageism saturates the American culture and limits public roles open to older adults, with perceptions focusing on outdated ideas. Everyone, no matter the age, has a need to feel useful, and ageism does not contribute in a positive way.