Odds are that you’ve at least some knowledge about hoarding and hoarders. Over the course of the past 15 years, there have been television programs that feature people who hoard. In addition, the news media relatively regularly posts reports on hoarding and hoarders. With that noted, if you are like most people, you possess a general idea about hoarding but really don’t have a fully accurate understanding of what technically is now known as “hoarding disorder.” In regard, you likely to not understand why hoarding behavior tends to worsen as a person with this disorder ages.

Essential Definition of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding has been recognized as a specific mental health condition since 2013. Hoarding disorder is medically defined “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Key Reasons Why Hoarding Disorder Worsens With Age

There are a number of reasons why hoarding disorder tends to worsen as a person ages. Six of the more common primary reasons why hoarding disorder becomes more pronounced in older individuals are:

  • Natural accumulation of items
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Divorce
  • Death of a spouse
  • Trauma of downsizing
  • Interplay with other mental health and emotional conditions

Natural Accumulation of Items

Although hoarding is something more profound that living in a cluttered residence, hoarding disorder can stem from a situation that began as a problem with accumulating clutter. As some people age, the amount of clutter that builds up in a home can increase. One of two different scenarios exist as clutter increases to a point that it becomes problematic. (By that it is meant that clutter increases to a level that a residence becomes progressively less usable.)

In the first scenario, a person who allows for clutter to become substantial in a residence may despair and feel overwhelmed. If an older person seeks help to eliminate clutter and restore order to a residence, that person does not have hoarding disorder. In the second scenario, clutter accumulates to a point that it impacts the livability of a house but the resident of the home will not part with items, even those that lack value. In this scenario, the person can be identified as having hoarding disorder.

Lack of Social Interaction

In some instances, as people age they have less social interaction. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including less than ideal health which ends up limiting what a person can and cannot do. Friends and family pass away, which also contributes to a person’s lessening of social interaction.

A lack of social interaction can establish a vicious cycle when it comes to hoarding disorder. A lack of social interaction can result in a person developing the early stages of hoarding disorder. As a hoarding situation becomes more pronounced, an individual will have even less social interaction.


Divorce can be a traumatic event in person’s life. When a divorce occurs when a person is older, and when a couple has been married for a longer period of time, the emotional impact of the marriage dissolution can be even more profound. As a result, a number of older people who see their marriages dissolve end up afflicted with hoarding disorder. A considerable majority of divorced people who become hoarders are women.

Death of a Spouse

When a couple has been married for an extended period of time, the death of one of the partners can be emotionally devastating for the surviving person. The death of spouse is another prime reason why some people develop hoarding disorder. As is the case with divorce, a considerable majority of people who develop hoarding disorder are women.

Trauma of Downsizing

Oftentimes, when people become senior citizens, they face the prospect of having to downsize. Economics and other considerations necessitate an older person to move from larger to a smaller residence.

A number of older people find this downsizing process particularly challenging. Some of these people respond to the reality of downsizing by trying to garner comfort and gain control over their lives by stridently holding on to personal property, including items of no real valur.

Interplay With Other Mental Health and Emotional Conditions

Finally, another underlying set of causes that can result in hoarding disorder in older people is found in the development of other mental health conditions. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health are problematic conditions for a notable number of older people. Certain mental health disorders or conditions like depression and anxiety can end up contributing to the rise of hoarding disorder.

Professional Assistance for Hoarding Disorder

If you’ve an older loved one in your life laboring under hoarding disorder, bear in mind that different types of professionals are likely to be necessary to assist an older person in gaining control over his or her hoarding practices and life more generally. Examples of professionals that may need to be called upon to assist in aiding a person with hoarding disorder include:

The support and assistance of family and friends can also prove invaluable when it comes to assisting an older person afflicted by hoarding disorder.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.