5 Ideas for Enjoying Good Conversations with Seniors
One of the ways we experience meaningful human connection is through good conversation. Sometimes, connecting with our elderly loved ones can feel challenging because of differences in life stage, not knowing what to talk about, or difficulties that come with aging like memory or hearing loss. One of the best things we can do for another person is to simply show them that we’re interested in them. Spending time together and listening well can show seniors that they are valued. Here are some ideas to help foster good conversations with your loved ones.
1) Choose a Good Space
First things first. Find a comfortable place to sit and talk with your friend or family member. Try to limit extra noise or distraction, if possible. If you’re talking on the phone or over a video call, find a quiet room and turn off the T.V. This will help you pay attention to the conversation as well as be heard.
2) Invite Them to Share Stories About Their Lives
If you’re not sure what to talk about, it can help to come prepared with a few questions or conversation starters already in mind. Older adults have lived full lives with myriad experiences. Inviting them to share about their lives can allow them to open up and talk about things that matter to them. Some places you might start are with questions about their childhood, their family, major life events, or what life is like for them now.
3) Slow Down and Show Interest
If your friend or family member receives your invitation and begins to share, honor that! Give yourself permission to slow down, settle in, and listen. If you need to leave at a certain time, inform them of that early on, and set an alarm for yourself so you don’t have to worry about checking the clock. As your senior shares, notice the details that interest you and ask questions about those things. If your friend slows down or becomes silent, let them. They may be recalling a memory or considering what to share next. Exchanges that include the sharing of stories, unrushed silences, and thoughtful questions can lead to rich conversations that deepen your relationship.
4) Ask for Their Opinions and Advice (Yes, that’s right!)
We all know how it feels to receive advice that we didn’t ask for. Or what it’s like when someone offers a strong opinion that isn’t necessarily shared. When talking with seniors, however, give yourself permission to “go there.” Except don’t offer them advice. Instead, ask for it. And invite them to throw their opinions into the mix, too. As mentioned before, older adults have lived a lot of life. They have had experiences you haven’t had yet. Or maybe they’ve walked through a hardship similar to something you’re currently experiencing. Ask them to share what they’ve learned and what they think. You don’t have to agree with them or correct them. Simply set yourself free to listen and learn anything that might be of value to you.
5) Be Patient and Flexible
Finally, be patient with, well, everything. Social distancing, hearing loss, or communicating with technology can present difficulties that make it hard to hear or be heard. Slow down and speak clearly and louder if necessary, without shouting. In addition, sometimes conversations simply lag. That’s okay. If your friend or family member isn’t interested in sharing life stories or advice when you meet, suggest something else. You might go for a walk or drive, make tea, or play a game together instead. Allowing yourself to be flexible can ease worries about making the time “perfect.” What’s really important is simply being together.
The Cedars Retirement Community
The Cedars Retirement Community is a beautiful lakeside retirement residence located just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Cedars believes in providing the highest quality of life and opportunity for seniors. We continue to operate with great care during this pandemic and are following all guidelines issued by the CDC and ISDH. Please contact us with any questions you may have.