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Discussion Topics for Seniors: Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to Elderly People

Starting a conversation with seniors is no different than starting a conversation with anyone else. However, there are some common stereotypes that people fall into when talking to older adults. Here are some do’s and don’ts of conversation when talking to seniors:

Effective Communication Methods for Seniors

Before coming up with a conversation topic, it’s important to use effective communication techniques before delving into specific topics. Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Give your full attention and let them speak freely without interruption.
  • Be patient if they are unable to speak at a faster pace.
  • Focus on one topic at a time - avoid jumping to several topics to prevent confusion.
  • Choose the right environment for a conversation. Avoid speaking in noisy areas with competing sounds of a radio or TV.
  • Try to avoid open-ended queries, especially when speaking with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.
  • Accept differences in opinion and try to compromise when the two of you need to make decisions.

Things to Avoid When Talking to the Elderly

Talking to seniors can involve several nuances in communication. Here are some things to avoid when speaking with the elderly:

  • Don’t use “elderspeak”—Avoid using condescending language or talking in a high-pitch voice. Use your usual vocabulary rather than simplify it. Also, speak directly to the elder rather than asking someone else, “How are they doing today?”
  • Don’t give unwanted advice. Rather than advising a person who already has many life experiences, try to encourage and support your loved one without necessarily giving your two-cents on an issue.
  • Don’t treat them differently just because of their age. Set aside your preconceived notions about older adults and realize they have had rich experiences which you can tap into and learn from.

Discussion Topics for Seniors

Here are some conversation starters to engage your loved one in conversation:

  1. Ask about their past. What is your favorite childhood memory? What did you and your friends do for fun when you were younger? What is the best lesson you learned?
  2. Ask their views on the present. How do you think the world has changed from when you were my age? What is something that made you happy this week? What is one piece of technology that you think made the world better?
  3. Ask about their favorite things. What is your favorite type of show/movie/music? What do you like to do for fun that we can do together? What is a new skill you would like to learn?
  4. Ask about accomplishments. What are you most proud of? How did your experience shape you? What lesson would you pass on to future generations?

Happier at Home prides itself in sending consistent caregivers to your loved one. Engaging elders in conversation helps to mentally stimulate your loved one, while also encouraging independence—one of our goals at Happier at Home.

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