How to Have a Conversation With an Elderly Person

How to Have a Conversation With an Elderly Person

Even if you’re normally a chatty person, conversing with the elderly can be intimidating. With a little practise and preparation, however, you’ll find that you can talk to older people about almost anything. The key to having a good conversation with an older person – or anyone else – is to remember that they are just like you. You can have a great conversation with an elderly person if you find interesting topics to discuss, use effective communication techniques, and are sensitive to any communication problems they may have.

Method 1 Finding Things to Say

1. Greet the individual. If you already know the person, greet them with a smile and let them know you’re glad to see them. If it’s appropriate, give them a hug. If you don’t know who they are, introduce yourself in a friendly tone of voice and extend a handshake.

2. Pose inquiries. If you’re at a loss for what to say, pose an open-ended question to the person. Elderly people are often eager to share their fascinating stories and memories with others.

If the person is a family member, you could ask them about events in your family’s history or other family members you never met.

If the person is a stranger, you could inquire about their family or their life when they were your age.

3. Make light conversation. Not every conversation with an elderly person needs to be in-depth. Older people, like younger people, enjoy making polite small talk. To make small talk, you could use any prior knowledge you have about them or information from your surroundings.

For example, you could tell your neighbour, “I haven’t seen your grandchildren in quite some time. When was the last time they came?” “What kinds of books have you read recently, Mr. Henderson?” you could ask.

4. Bring some eye-catching props. If you know you’ll be visiting an elderly person, bring something to do or talk about with you. A family photo album (if you are visiting a family member), music from when the older person was young, or a homemade treat that you can enjoy together are some ideas.

5. Inquire for advice. If you’re in a difficult situation or having difficulty making a big decision, talk to an older person about it. Elderly people have accumulated a wealth of life experience, and the majority of them are eager to share their hard-won wisdom with others. They’ll be flattered that you asked them as well.

“Uncle Joe, I’m having trouble deciding between two jobs,” you could say. Which do you believe is more important: making a lot of money or having fun at work?”

Method 2 Communicating Effectively

1. Find a comfortable place to talk. Talk in a quiet and calm environment where neither you nor the other person will be distracted or overwhelmed. Turn off any background radios or televisions so you can hear each other. Sit in a place where the older person can clearly see your face and read your lips if necessary.

2. Speak loudly. Enunciate your words clearly, speak loudly enough to be heard, and don’t speak too quickly. However, do not yell at the person unless they ask you to.

If the elderly person is having difficulty understanding what you’re saying, you may need to slow down or use shorter sentences. This does not imply that you should speak down to the elderly.

3. Give your customers options. If you’re offering something to the elderly person or trying to figure out what they want to do, give them two or three options. This gives them a sense of control over the situation without overwhelming them with options.

For example, don’t simply ask, “Where would you like to go today?” “Would you rather go to the park or a coffee shop?” instead.

4. Make direct eye contact. When an elderly person speaks to you, look them in the eyes, even if you don’t understand what they’re saying. Making eye contact communicates to the other person that you are paying attention to them and are interested in what they are saying.

5. Allow the individual time to think. The elderly person may need to pause during your conversation to find the right word, recover their train of thought, or reminisce about something. Wait for them to finish speaking patiently. Unless they ask you to, don’t try to finish their sentence or find the word they’re looking for.

6. Inform the individual of your departure date and time. Make sure the elderly person understands when you are leaving if they have dementia or are easily confused. Say your goodbyes and let them know when they can expect to see you again. Another good way to signal the end of the conversation is to give them a hug or a handshake.

Method 3 Being a Sensitive Communicator

1. Be aware of communication issues. With age, communication often becomes more difficult. These difficulties can be caused by age-related conditions like hearing and vision loss, physical disabilities, or neurological disorders like dementia or stroke. Take note of whether the person you’re speaking with is deaf, has memory problems, or otherwise has difficulty communicating. Change your communication style so that they can easily participate in the conversation.

For example, if the person is having difficulty hearing you, move closer to them and speak louder.

If the person appears to be easily perplexed, use shorter sentences and be patient as you get your point across.

Avoid asking too many questions at once if they have memory loss. Avoid “why” questions as well, as they may frustrate them.

If possible, try to find out ahead of time if the person has any communication issues before you begin conversing with them.

2. Use “elder speak” sparingly. When speaking to an elderly person, avoid using baby talk, a singsong voice, or inappropriately familiar terms of endearment. Communicate with them in the same way that you would with any other adult. There’s no need to simplify your vocabulary or over-explain things to them if they show no signs of confusion.

Many elderly people are offended when others treat them as if they are children, even if those people mean no harm.

3. Pay close attention as the speaker speaks. Even if the elderly person rambles, give them your undivided attention. Make sure you understand what they’re saying by asking questions related to what they’re saying. While the other person is speaking, don’t look around the room or check your watch, as this will make you appear bored.

For example, if the person mentions living in another country, you could inquire about that aspect of their life.

4. Keep in mind that older people are just like you. Elderly people were once your age, and they have gone through many of the same emotions and life events that you have. Treat the person with the same respect and courtesy that you would expect from others, and look for common ground that will help you connect.

Consider how you would like people to speak to you when you are elderly and use that as a guideline for yourself.

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