In the western world, the elderly can be excluded from most of our day-to-day lives. For this reason, we may have some hesitations or misgivings about speaking to someone a generation or two older than us. Yet, it’s important we do so. Older adults need our companionship, so they don’t succumb to loneliness, and we need their insight and wisdom. Following the tips below can help you become a better acquaintance to an older adult.
Match Their Tempo of Speaking
An elderly person, depending on their mental acuity, may have a slower way of speaking. This can lead the person listening to get distracted, but it is very important to give your companion your undivided attention. Try not to interrupt in an attempt to move the conversation along. Listen intently and ask questions when appropriate. Then, when it’s your turn to speak, do so at the same speed as your older associate.
It’s also important to stick to one topic at a time. Older adults may find the mental gymnastics necessary to juggle many ideas at once exhausting, frustrating, or confusing. Once you find a subject they seem to enjoy, stick to it.
Find a Noise-Free Environment
Take a moment to consider where you will be speaking with a person who is elderly. A noisy cafe may be overly stimulating. It could also be difficult for a person experiencing hearing loss to pick up the conversation. Places like a park or bookstore may be the optimal environment for your conversation with an older adult.
Take An Interest In Their Lives
Many older adults feel that as they age, they are treated more and more like children. It becomes less and less common for them to be asked how they feel about something, or what they think. Instead, they are more likely to be ushered from place to place while being told what to do.
Comparative questions are a good place to start. For instance, asking “what food did you enjoy as a child compared to now?” You may also focus on their favorite things. Ask about which activities, music, or books they enjoy. If they enjoy a subject you happen to know a lot about, start a conversation about it. It’s possible you may have more in common with an elderly adult than you previously imagined.
Choose Historical Topics Related To Their Generation
When speaking with someone who is elderly, it’s important to keep in mind the not-so-obvious fact that they have been on this planet longer than us, and therefore, may have much wisdom to share. Focus on historical topics they themselves witnessed. There is nothing like listening to a first-person account about something you’ve only ever read about. For instance, what was it like to live through the Vietnam War?
Now, you may be thinking, “something like the Vietnam War is a landmine”. Yet, it’s only a divisive topic if you focus on the political beliefs surrounding a specific topic. What if you focused on what their life was like instead? Were they raising a family at the time or trying to find work? In other words, spotlight their humanity – those things that make us human, no matter what our generation.
Questions to Get You Started
- What is your favorite game to play now?
- What was your favorite game to play as a child?
- Where did you grow up? Can you tell me about it?
- What were your parents like?
- Could you tell me about your country of origin?
- Did you enjoy school? What was your favorite subject?
- How’s your family?
- Did you marry? What were they like?
- Do you have children? What were they like as children?
- Do you have grandchildren? Could you tell me about them?
- What’s your favorite vacation spot?
- If you could see any one person again, who would it be?
- Do you have any advice for my generation?
- When you think about your life, what is your proudest moment?
Plan An Activity
Cards and board games serve as excellent icebreakers. Having an activity to focus on takes the pressure off having to find a topic of conversation. Ask your older companion if there is a game, puzzle, or craft they enjoy. Then, bring the activity with you when you meet.
Remember: You’re the Lucky One
Speaking with an elderly person doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Just remember that they are also human, just with more life experience, which you’re privileged enough to hear. Taking the time to speak with an older adult can be a life-enhancing experience. Just imagine all you will learn and share during your time together.
24-Nursing Care is a leading coordinator of nursing care and companion referral services for individuals who want to remain independent and outside of a nursing home setting. As a caregiver referral service, we can help you find the care that is right for your loved one, taking some of the stress off of you. For a free in-home consultation, call us today – Miami-Dade County (786) 518-3622 or Broward county (954) 949-1332.