Archive | March, 2012

Communicating With Seniors

Language & Limitations Can Get In The Way

Communication can be very simple. Someone says something, and another person understands what they said…and meant. Of course, not all communication goes so smoothly. Things can get in the way.

For seniors, there may be numerous obstacles to overcome. If they have hearing or sight problems, getting a message through can be more difficult for everyone involved. Chronic pain, symptoms of illnesses and side effects from medications can dull a senior’s senses,
along with their ability to comprehend. In addition, generational differences can create a language barrier. Slang, references from pop culture and technical jargon can be very confusing.

In all these cases, conversing will demand more concentration and energy. If either of these are in short supply, communication will suffer even more. This can lead to everyone being frustrated and the natural tendency to avoid communication.

Here are some helpful tips for enhancing the flow of communication with seniors.

1-Seek the medical and dental help that can improve their hearing, sight and speech.
2-Ask questions that generate involvement and  check for their level of understanding.
3- Have the patience to wait for answers.
4-Make it easier for everyone to stay attentive. Cut down on noise and distractions. Make
sure the temperature, lighting and seating are as comfortable as possible.
5- Speak at a pace and volume that works for the senior. Use visual cues and physical touch to help convey your message.
6-Save important conversations for the time of day when their energy and concentration levels are the highest.

Sometimes seniors are not ready or willing to open up. Here are some hints for getting past their barriers and stimulating conversation.

1-Ask for their advice…and refrain from give yours.
2-Ask specific questions, yet don’t interrogate. Routine questions, such as “How are you
doing?”, usually lead to automatic answers.
3-Be a good listener and maintain eye contact. These are two ways you can communicate
that you care.
4-Listen for what they are not saying. This is especially important when dealing with the
effects of illnesses and disabilities.
5- For topics that are difficult for them to talk about, offer newspaper articles that will stimulate conversation or be seen as an authoritative point of view.

More and more seniors have adopted cell phones, voice mail  e-mail and even Skype, which is live video chat via the internet. For those who do not feel comfortable with the new technologies,  you will need to communicate on their terms, at their own pace, with patience and kindness.


Doolittle Home in Foxboro is unlike many retirement facilities and nursing homes these days. Doolittle Home is privately and independently managed by a volunteer board of local officers and trustees. Doolittle Home received the highest rating in Massachusetts for personal care provided to residents. One resident’s daughter said “I have such peace of mind knowing that Mother is where she needs to be and is being cared for by such caring people.” For Doolittle Home’s virtual tour click here and to read about the friends of Doolittle Home click here.

Below is a new video from Pat about her experience with Doolittle Home. Click on the video to watch.

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