Connecting Across Generations: Tips for Meaningful Conversations with Seniors

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Talking to the elderly can be more challenging than talking to people your age. It’s not only because of the generation gap between you and the older person but also because elderlies usually have trouble communicating. Hearing, speaking, and cognitive impairments are just some of the barriers when communicating with elderly people.

If you’re planning on visiting your grandparents or other older relatives, it’s important to know how to communicate effectively with them. In this article, I will share some valuable tips you can use when you communicate with elderly people.

Importance of Establishing Good Communication with Elderly People

Establishing good communication with older adults is important. Elderlies get easily bored especially if they are alone and don’t have someone to talk to, thus making them more prone to chronic loneliness or depression.

That’s one of the reasons why visiting your old relatives from time to time helps in keeping them connected with you. They may even feel cared for and remembered when you do routine visits to them.

Talking to older adults can be helpful to you as well. Not only that you’ll be more knowledgeable about the way of living in the past, but since elderlies have a lot of experiences throughout their lifetime, you’ll be able to learn a lot of wisdom and life lessons from them.

Tips to Establish Good Communication with Elderly People

If you want to successfully start a conversation with an elderly, keep the following tips in mind:

Start With a Greeting

Starting the conversation with a happy aura and a respectful greeting is one way to establish rapport with the elderly. If you’re talking to an elderly relative that you know, you can start your greeting with a smile and then let them know that you are glad to see him/her. You can also give a hug to the person especially if you haven’t seen him/her in a long time.

On the other hand, if you just met the elderly, you can start the conversation with a friendly greeting and then kindly introduce yourself. Offering a handshake is also helpful to make the elderly feel more welcomed.

Listen Attentively

Just like in any type of conversation, listening attentively is a sign of respect for the person you are talking to. Avoid using your phone while talking and listen as the elderly might feel like you’re not interested, thus deterring him/her from continuing the conversation.

Speak Clearly

Elderly people usually have difficulties in hearing or understanding, especially if the speaker talks way too fast. To make it more understandable, try to speak more gently and use simple words to describe things, events, or situations.

The loudness of your voice is also very important. Make your voice louder especially if you are talking with an elderly with hearing impairments.

Be Respectful

It’s very important to show respect especially if you are talking to an elderly. Addressing them with Mr. or Mrs. is one way to do that. Moreover, avoid baby talking to an elderly with cognitive and hearing impairments as you may appear condescending, thus offending the person you are talking to.

Pick a Good Environment

Your surroundings and environment play a vital role in building a healthy conversation with the elderly. To do that, make sure that you are in a comfortable place with no noise barriers like a running TV show, a turned-on radio, or a crowded space.

It’s also better to keep a close distance and make sure that you are facing him/her so that the elderly feel more acknowledged and heard while talking

Ask Questions

Asking questions is one way to start a meaningful conversation with the elderly. When asking the elderly, we must choose the questions we ask carefully. To help you with that, below is a list of several topics with appropriate questions to ask:

  • Ask about their past experiences - If you want o talk about the elderly’s past experiences, try asking questions like, “What were you like when you were a child”, and “What was the most valuable lesson you learned?”, or “What were your hobbies when you were younger?”.
  • Ask about their accomplishments - This is one way to find wisdom and encouragement. Try asking questions like, “How did you become a successful professional/person?”, or “What is your major accomplishment?”.
  • Talk about the future - When talking about the future, you can ask about his/her plans or the things wanted to do while still alive.
  • Talk about each other’s views - This is another great topic to talk about with seniors. Whether it’s about politics, artists, concepts, or anything under the sun, it will surely make the conversation full and interesting.

Consider the Elderly’s Impairments

Always be sensitive to the elderly’s impairments in hearing, speaking, or understanding. Make sure to keep your voice at a volume enough for the elderly to hear, but not too loud in a way that you’re already shouting. You should also be more patient when waiting for a response as elderlies need more time to process and formulate what they wanted to say.

Maintain Eye Contact

Facing and maintaining eye contact is another crucial tip to keep in mind. Older adults want to be heard and feel acknowledged in a conversation. Thus, facing them when you are talking to them and keeping eye contact is a gesture that you are interested in the conversation and that you are not merely talking to them out of coercion.

Ask for Advice

Elderly people have a lot of experiences throughout their lifetime. Whether it’s about love, life decisions, or challenges, asking for advice from the elderly is the best way to find a course of action. Asking elderly people for advice can also give them a sense of purpose and make them feel more wanted.

Bring Something to Do or Eat Together

To make your visit to an elderly relative more special, try bringing some homemade goodies like specially baked bread, cake, or cookies. You can even bring a photo album and scour through it together while reminiscing milestones and happy moments.

Final Thoughts

You may feel a little conscious and intimidated when talking to an elderly. Though this is a normal feeling, it’s important to know that they are also people and just like you, have gone through different experiences in life. Try to find some common ground by sharing some of your significant experiences in life too. I hope this article helped you get ideas on how to talk to elderly people.

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