How to Communicate With Older Adults

How to Communicate With Older Adults

Whether you’re visiting a grandparent or working as a social worker with older adults on a regular basis, age-related health issues can make communication difficult. Conversations and understanding can be complicated by chronic conditions such as dementia and hearing loss, as well as medication side effects. Interactions can be frustrating and helpless during periods of reduced lucidity. There are, however, techniques that can be used to facilitate interaction with older adults and create a communication-friendly environment.


1. Be aware of the individual’s medical issues. Health issues in older adults can make speaking and understanding difficult. Before you communicate with someone, make sure you consider their health. They may, for example, suffer from hearing loss, speech difficulties, and memory loss. Communication is made more difficult by these factors. Also, keep in mind that chronological age isn’t always a reliable predictor of a person’s health (see Warnings).

2. Be aware of the surroundings in which you’re communicating. Make sure to consider the environment in which you’re communicating, as it could affect your hearing and speech. Is there any distracting noise in the background? Is there a large group of people in the same room? Is there any music that bothers you? Are there any potential sources of distraction that could obstruct your communication? Inquire if the older adult is at ease in their surroundings. If you notice any noise, try to relocate to a more tranquil and quiet location.

3. Make eye contact and speak clearly and articulately. Hearing loss is common among the elderly. It is critical to speak clearly and clearly articulate your words. Address the person directly in the face, not to the side. Do not eat your words; instead, move your mouth and carefully pronounce each word. When you talk, your tongue “dances” inside your mouth, allowing you to express yourself more clearly. You’re not articulating as well as you could be if your tongue “sleeps” and plays a passive role.

4. Make the necessary adjustments to your volume. There’s a distinction to be made between enunciating and speaking loudly. Learn to adjust your voice to the needs of the person you’re speaking with. Examine the surrounding environment and how it affects the individual’s hearing abilities. Don’t yell just because the person listening is older. Treat the person with respect by articulating and speaking at a volume that is appropriate for both of you.

5. Use questions and sentences that are clear and precise. If you believe there is a lack of comprehension, do not hesitate to repeat or rephrase your sentences and questions. Complicated questions and sentences can be perplexing for older people with short-term memory loss or hearing loss. Constructions that are clear and precise are easier to understand.

“Did you have soup for lunch?” is an example of a direct question. “Did you have salad for lunch?” says the narrator. “What did you have for lunch?” instead of “What did you have for dinner?” The more precise your language is, the easier it will be for the elderly to understand.

Reduce the amount of “noise” in your questions and sentences. Your sentences and questions should be no more than 20 words long. Use no slang or filler words or phrases in your writing. (“Like,” “well,” and “you know,” for instance.) Keep your sentences succinct and to-the-point.

Avoid being perplexed by a jumble of ideas and questions. Attempt to logically define your ideas and questions. It may be difficult for the older adult to understand if you mix ideas. One idea and message at a time should be expressed. As an example, “Calling your brother, John, is a good idea. Susan, your sister, can be reached later.” “I think we should call your brother, John, first, and then we could call your sister, Susan,” is a more complicated construction.

6. If at all possible, use visual aids. It is critical to be creative if an older adult has a hearing or memory problem. Visual aids are beneficial. Demonstrate to the person what or who you’re talking about. For example, it might be more appropriate to say, “Do you have any back pain (pointing to your back)? Instead of simply asking, “Do you have any pain or discomfort?” ask, “Is there any pain in your stomach (pointing to your stomach).””

7. Take it slowly, patiently, and with a smile on your face. A genuine smile conveys your understanding. It also creates a welcoming atmosphere in which to communicate. Remember to take a breather between each sentence and question. Allow the individual to comprehend and digest the information and questions. If a person has memory loss, this is a particularly useful technique. You demonstrate respect and patience by pausing.

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