Sometimes, yes and other times not at all.
The trouble many people have is deciding criteria for when to excuse an older person’s ways in interacting and when to not do so.
We all would agree that medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia, brain tumors, known side effects from medicine or medical treatment, definitely entitle anyone regardless of their age, to be excused for unusual social behavior.
What shall we say about great-aunt Doris, whom all who know her regard as impatient, hypercritical, and demanding of others what she rarely offers of herself?
Maybe someone in your family resembles old uncle Ben. On the surface he is friendly and cordial to everyone. Though not obviously close to any particular family member, twenty five years ago you comforted your frightened and overwhelmed second cousin who confided in you about how uncle Ben persuaded him into sexual engagement.
Age alone does not excuse or negate selfishness, exploitation, wrong or unfair action toward others.
Great-aunt Doris did not commit a crime as old uncle Ben did.
The evidence of Doris’ damage is nonetheless difficult to assess and address because it all occurs invisibly through ordinary words.
On-going interactions of verbal and emotional cruelty, and certainly sexual overpowering of a child, each harm a person’s sense of who they are.
If you feel diminished by someone who was part of your early life and who diminishes you still now, give yourself the personal freedom to decide whether, how much, and how deeply to connect with this person.
Consider whether in advance of a holiday family event, starting a truthful conversation with either uncle Ben or great-aunt Doris about your feelings would help you.
To state one’s position always gives the speaker the value of identifying and releasing stored up pain.
If you’re really lucky, uncle Ben or great-aunt Doris will be glad you opened the door for honest dialogue and care.
If you’re not ready this year or decide against opening your heart to someone who’s harmed you, then your clarity and resolve will strengthen your sense of dignity in your best way forward relating to the particular person.
Whichever variation you follow, the one to drop is pretending all is well simply because the person who harmed you is now old.