Perhaps you volunteer at a nursing facility, where seniors in varying conditions appreciate a smile and a few minutes of pleasant conversations. Or, you may have an elderly neighbor you haven’t gotten around to knowing just yet. You might even serve meals to the elderly in their homes when they are unable to venture out to grocery shop or cook. In these instances, and in many similar situations, it helps to learn a few important skills in how to make good conversation with senior citizens.
Members of the senior population experience more loneliness than other age groups, due to weakened health or a decline in physical mobility. Time spent with seniors in enjoyable conversation is significantly valued, enhancing the seniors’ sense of emotional well-being.
Seniors offer a wealth of knowledge, like stories gleaned from decades of unique life experiences—funny stories, inspiring tales about courage and relationships or accounts that might even shock, like historic wars or our country’s lean years during the Great Depression. Plus, they may find amusement in telling you the latest jokes they’ve heard, or they may look forward to hearing yours!
Welcome a Senior
Your first step in getting to know an elderly individual, is to offer a greeting. If unfamiliar with the person, introduce yourself. If you are familiar with the senior, offer a hug if appropriate, when you mention how glad you are to see them.
Open-ended questions are invaluable in encouraging a senior to open up. Ask about members of their family, for instance. Seniors also enjoy talking about their childhood, family events and momentous times in our country’s history that they were proud to be a part of.
Small talk is no small matter! Even elderly individuals love a chat about the last book they read! If the senior has grandchildren, finding out when they last visited is a great way to begin a conversation.
Music, photo albums and homemade goodies light up a senior’s face within seconds. Sit down with them and travel back in time as they recall the people in those photographs, rejoice in the music that gave special meaning to events in their lives or simply delight in a treat you whipped up.
Logistics of Good Conversation
The elderly may require different atmospheres when having in-depth conversations. Quiet spaces offer a relaxed, less distracting environment, and one which is conducive to hearing. Make sure to turn off sources of surplus noise, like the radio or television. Sit facing the senior so they can read your lips if necessary.
Be careful to remain respective of the hearing challenges an elderly individual may face. Speak loudly and clearly. If the senior has difficulty with comprehending your words, slow down your rate of speech; use short sentences. Good eye contact shows the senior that you are listening attentively to their words and care about their message. Be patient with the senior, who may on occasion struggle to find the right words.
Elder care experts offer a few questions to engage a senior in meaningful conversation. These questions are especially useful when the senior is someone you know well, such as a family member or close friend of the family. Store a few of these questions in your bag of conversation starters, and pull them out when you have the priceless opportunity of conversing with a senior:
- What life experiences contributed to your happiness?
- How did your military experience shape you?
- What are some important life lessons you’ve learned?
- Tell me about your friends growing up!
- What fun activities did you enjoy as a youth?
- Do you recall the types of clothing, outrageous fads or popular hairstyles of your younger days?
- How would you prefer to be remembered?
Asking for an elderly individuals’ viewpoint is another great way to get the conversation going. Seniors’ rich, varied life experiences have given them perspective that can be invaluable to anyone making life choices. So if you need to ask for advice, a senior is a great resource to seek out!
When a senior continues to age, basic life activities that were once simple, may become daunting for them. In these instances, having conversations about extra help may need to be addressed. Seniors don’t want to be abandoned in a nursing home. They also want to retain as much independence as possible.
When you are starting the conversation about elderly care or home caregivers to assist a senior family member, use positive language: “A home aide can help out with daily meal preparation” or “You’ll feel more secure if an elderly caregiver accompanies you on your morning walks.” Be careful to avoid being on the attack; use “we” instead of “you” when you offer solutions, and always accept the elderly family member’s perspective. Refrain from pressuring a senior or making him or her feel inadequate or judged when you are involved in discussions that affect their daily life.
Conversations are important to every individual, no matter what their age. Seniors benefit from social engagement, which improves their overall well-being. When work or family commitments prevent you from regularly engaging with a senior loved one, you can still fulfill this basic human need through a senior care facility. Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago provides in-home elderly care services that meet the needs of the local elderly population. Qualified caregivers socialize with the seniors in their care by playing card games that stimulate their mind, challenging them in fun board games, helping with visits to friends and family and accompanying them on walks outdoors or other valuable exercise activities.
Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago offers an in-home companion care plan customized to meet the individual needs of seniors in their care. The skilled caregivers at Assisting Hands will ensure your loved one gets ample socialization either through pleasant interactions and conversations with the home aide or with others. Good conversations lead to a state of emotional well-being. Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago is dedicated to involving the community’s seniors in activities that enhance their overall life satisfaction.