We communicate every day in millions of ways. Most of us have probably taken courses on communication, or even taught others! The important thing to remember when communicating with anyone is to remember your audience. You wouldn’t speak to your son in the same way you address a loan officer! Know the person you are talking to before speaking. The same is true with Seniors! Make sure you know several things before you decide on your methods and content of communication before entering a conversation with the Seniors in your life.

  1. Hearing

    • It is normal to begin losing hearing as one ages. Some Seniors experience this – be sure to realize if you are speaking to a Senior with hearing problems. Adjust your volume accordingly, or write down what you are trying to communicate!
  2. Origin

    • How did this individual grow up? Were they born in the North? Maybe they have a different background than you. Does it seem that certain topics upset them? Be sure to be sensitive of their beliefs & where they come from!
  3. Background

    • Where did this person work before they retired? Are they an expert in certain topics? Do they have a big extended family or a few closer members? Find out what has mattered to this person in their lifetime.

After you find out a little more about the Senior’s personality, likes and dislikes, there are several general principles for chatting with elderly individuals:

  1. Ask questions

    • In talking with anyone new, it’s important to think of thoughtful questions to ask. Don’t center the conversation around yourself, but rather, seek to know the other person.
  2. Listen carefully

    • To most in the Senior population, it’s important they know that you are not distracted when listening to them. A glance at a phone or an absentminded listen can end a conversation before it begins.
  3. Know when to take a break

    • Sometimes, a long conversation can be too much. Certain Seniors become tired as conversation goes on, especially those that are dealing with medical issues. Stay in-tune with how tired they seem, and end the conversation for a rest when it seems appropriate.
  4. Be patient

    • Complications arise as we age. Socially, medically, emotionally, and mentally challenges become overwhelming and seem more and more daunting as our years advance. Remember that the person you are speaking with is most likely dealing with concerns they once did not have, and empathetically and patiently enter the conversation.
  5. Repeat if necessary

    • Often, due to hearing or cognitive struggles, you might have to reiterate your point with a Senior, or ask them something twice. Recap your conversation if possible, and repeat back responses from the Senior to be sure you understood their contribution to the conversation.

Conversing with Seniors requires a measure of compassion and patience, but it is certainly rewarding to hear the wisdom and experiences of those older than oneself. Remember to keep these principles in mind when you approach the Seniors in your life, and you’re on your way to a wonderful conversation!



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