That awkward silence. Do you feel like you might run out of things to talk about with your elderly relative, neighbor or friend ? Remember, seniors are, after all, simply older people. As older people, they will have had many experiences in their life that they might like to share with you.
A recent article on ECaring.com had these tips to share to help start a conversation….and keep it going.
• Use open-ended questioning –Practice using the 4 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, and How) to re-frame direct statements as questions: “What was the best vacation you ever took?”; “Who did you most admire as a child?”
• Accentuate the Positive – With an upbeat voice, give a kind –but genuine—remark (“You’re looking very energetic today!”). Avoid vague inquiries like “How are you today”, which could invite a litany of ailments or complaints. Replace with an exclamation of or some positive (and authentic!) observation.
• Use prompts – Bring photo books along for your visit. This may be enough to generate hours of conversation.
• Be patient – Some older adults tend to consistently talk about the same one or two topics. Validate his or her concerns by listening authentically.
• Read aloud – Reading to an older person can be a powerful way to connect. All types of narratives provide room for deeper discussion. Your voice alone can be a soothing, comforting source
• Find out what makes them smile – When starting a conversation with an older person, ask what they enjoy. Topics such as asking about their favorite foods, television shows, movies, books, and music are a great place to start. Take a look around their room to guess what the person might like. Focus and build upon what brings this person joy
• Talk about the past – Reminiscence is a very important therapeutic mechanism for older adults. Many older people find joy in talking about events in their past. You can ask about their childhood, first love, jobs.
Here are more tips for communicating with seniors that we found on AgingCare.com
• Remember to speak distinctly. Some older adults do not like to admit that they cannot hear or understand the conversation around them. Remain calm and talk in a gentle, matter-of-fact way, keep sentences short and simple, focusing on one idea at a time.
• Don’t Condescend. Make sure your attempt to “turn up the volume” and slow down your speaking patterns doesn’t come across as condescending.
Still need help? Here are a few questions you can use to the break the ice when talking to a senior:
• Do you have a favorite animal [food, color, song]?
• Where did you go to school?
• What was the first job you ever had?
• When you were little, what was your neighborhood like?
• What is your favorite type of music?
• What are you most proud of?
• How did your military experience shape your life?
• How many grandchildren/children do you have?
• When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?
• What makes you happy?
• Growing up, what were some fads you remember [hairstyles, clothing, dances]?
We are constantly reminded of the rich legacy of each of our unique residents here at the Doolittle Home. Their memories span decades of history. Their hearts are filled with love for their family and friends. Each and every one has their very own authentic story. We are honored to have the opportunity to listen.
If you would like more information about Doolittle Home or schedule a private tour call DeAnna Willis 508.543.2694