Many disorders that cause anemia, especially cancer, tend to be more common among older people. Thus, many older people develop anemia. Iron deficiency anemia, usually due to abnormal bleeding, is the most common anemia among older people.
Symptoms of anemia are basically the same in older people as in younger people. However, older people may not look pale. Also, even when anemia is mild, older people are more likely to become confused, depressed, agitated, or listless than younger people. They may also become unsteady and have difficulty walking. These problems can interfere with being able to live independently. However, some older people with mild anemia have no symptoms at all, particularly when anemia develops gradually, as it often does in older people.
In older people, anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency may be mistaken for dementia because this type of anemia may affect the nerves and mental function.
Having anemia may shorten the life expectancy of older people. Thus, identifying the cause and correcting it are particularly important.