Relationships with Seniors enrich our lives. Here are proven ways to build connections through conversations.
Friendships with older adults provide perspective and encouragement, in addition to hard-earned wisdom for the journey. But sometimes generational differences feel like divisions. Do you struggle to find common ground on which to begin conversations with Seniors? Try these 3 Conversation Starters to jumpstart lively interactions.
Discuss the Past to Start Conversations with Seniors
While it may appear cliche, Seniors enjoy discussing the past because of their wealth of experiences. They have poignant memories of relationships and adventures that open up enthusiastic conversation.
Unsure of what part of their history to discuss? Check for outward clues. Is your friend a veteran? Ask about his or her service and where they traveled. Inquire about lasting relationships from that era, and the lessons learned through sacrifice.
Look around for family pictures and decorative heirlooms to be conversation starters. Some Seniors enjoy discussing their own childhoods, and antics with siblings, while others are inclined to talk about the challenges of raising children, and advice they would offer young parents today.
Start Conversations around Daily Routines
Daily routines start engaging conversations with older adults. Ask about daily rhythms in regards to getting outside or social activities with friends. Do they see grandchildren on a weekly basis, or have a pet for which they enjoy caring?
Let the seasons help guide these discussions. How is your friend or relative spending the winter days? Ask about what they look forward to in the spring. Do they enjoy bird watching or gardening or enjoy simple habits of spotting deer or bunnies out their window?
If Seniors are residents at The Wesley Community, they have a monthly schedule of outings and programs. What events do they enjoy attending? Do they have neighbors who join in? Ask about favorite monthly events or any activities they prefer to skip.
Recent books and TV shows can easily get conversations going. Be curious about what Seniors are reading or watching, and when possible, be intentional about following the same authors and episodes in order to promote more discussion.
Talk about Family and Friends with Seniors
Older adults enjoy proudly sharing about their friends and family. When you inquire about children and grandchildren, you invite Seniors to easily share much-loved stories and anecdotes. If they are able, Seniors are excited to show you pictures, artwork and gifts from family.
Don’t be concerned with keeping Seniors on topic but allow the conversation to naturally unfold. Sharing about a grandchild might lead into excitement about an upcoming gathering or memories about a recent holiday. Practice being fully present as your friend or relative shares and allow the conversation to take you along for the ride.
Listen Graciously with Seniors
Remember, active listening is the best conversation starter. Listen with your body and your words, giving Seniors time to share without feeling rushed. Be aware of topics that don’t appear to click, and be ready to discuss topics to which they habitually return.
“Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words.” George Eliot
Skilled listeners create space for others. Shape an atmosphere and tone that encourages Seniors to process and connect. Resist the temptation to have an agenda or feel productive. Listening and connecting through conversation is important, sacred work, and time well spent.