Communicating with senior adults requires the same love, care and respect as talking with any adult. Considering individual differences is the key to successful connecting. A geriatric gap definitely exists. One size does not fit all. A numbered calendar age does not equal a set defined stage of geriatric development. We all need tender loving care.
Consider the adults health and their own specific needs. Becoming a senior has taught me the truth behind the expression “Don’t judge me until you have walked a lifetime in my shoes.”
Be patient. Easy to say, difficult to accomplish. Understanding and facilitating the developmental needs of silver sages can be difficult because every age band is focused on their own developmental issues and can’t see ahead to the next stage.
The stigma around seniors being frequently judged as having a mental decline runs rampant with tags such as old geezer, old lady, aged, young lady, elderly, and more I can’t be bothered to name. My idea of saying “silver sages” comes from our graying hair and our enlightened wisdom. No matter what you know or how much you have learned, more insight and wisdom are plentiful in the game of life.
Behavioral changes due to aging are basic indications of developmental needs. The communication habits of seniors are the tools they use to process end-of-life tasks. None of us have first hand experiences with being a silver sage until the mind and body propels us into that phase of life. Learn to give support, instead of judging and criticizing them during their current stage of aging.
Noticeable changes in seniors include a lack of urgency to respond, while mentally sifting through past life experiences. The thoughts go to sorting and discovering while visiting their own life dramas.
Repetition is a form of emphasizing past events. Often times the listener tunes out instead of asking questions to find the significance of the story.
When silver sages disconnect from the conversation, accept these events as opportunities to ask open-ended questions to discover more about their current view of the discussion.
Attention to details requires patience while the silver sage is searching for value and understanding of events. Your reality is not necessarily the same as their feelings in any given situation.
Some generalized communication techniques bring positive results when they are adjusted to meet the situation:
1.Be patient. Don’t rush the conversation. Speak clearly and make eye contact. Treat the individual with respect by articulating and speaking at a volume that is comfortable for both of you.
2.Be a good listener. Turn your cell phone off when talking with a silver sage. It’s a rude interference and annoying to know the listener is not listening.
3.Keep it simple. Raise a single issue at a time rather than a complex group of ideas all at one time.
4.Work toward a solution that is acceptable to all concerned.
5.Be optimistic. Aging is a journey of changes.
6.Seniors have feelings too. They will remember how you make them feel. Never talk down to them or talk over them. Directing anger toward their less than perfect thinking and behaving encourages depression.
7.Be supportive to show understanding and caring, even if you think your way is better for all concerned. Forcing changes which are a matter of your opinion versus a seniors opinion of what is best for them can cause resentment and many times worsening illnesses. Have you walked a lifetime in their shoes?
8.Caretakers can make their own life much less stressful by taking classes designed for caretakers, talking with geriatric specialists and asking the advice of Geriatric Doctors. Learning never ends.
We are expected to make allowances for the communication babbling habits of young children and awkwardness of teenagers, but we are less tolerant of the communication habits of older adults. Silver sages have been viewed as oppositional, irritating, resistant, and slowing down. They are on a journey in a new and unfamiliar world. Their drive to reflect on the past gives rise to new and unique communication habits which are not barriers, confrontational tactics, or signs of decline, but keys to development for this stage of life.
Become creative in your interactions with silver sages. Appreciate them for where they are in this stage of life. Make adjustments along the way. The same advice helps senior to senior communications.
It takes a village to care for an adult senior!