Having no regrets and aging gracefully are myths. No one really says I’m age 70 or 80, etc. and looking back, I have no regrets. And the latest excitement over saying age 80 is the new age 60 is a marketing ploy to make more sales.
What does aging gracefully mean? Is it not having to worry about what people think about you, your looks or your actions? Attitude sets the tone for a more fulfilled life. Maybe aging gracefully means having a positive outlook.
Geriatric experts believe that aging can be a period of growth and personal development. Understanding and facilitating the developmental needs of silver sages (senior adults) can be difficult because every age band is focused on their own developmental issues and can’t see ahead to the next stage. These different developmental perspectives can lead to breakdowns in communication between generations.
When communicating with silver sages do you ever wonder, maybe we’re on different planets, speaking a different language? Are you asking yourself, why don’t they understand? All you want to do is help, but there’s just no talking with them. The issue is control. Improve the communications between the generations by understanding the underlying forces of the senior stages of development.
Seniors often see their children, as meddling in their lives and personal affairs. It’s not easy, but it is a necessity. Discussions about finances, health, safety, driving, and long-range plans are not simple issues for a goal of a calm family talk. These are complicated emotional issues that, for decades, the parents have considered as “none of your business.”
Silver sages feel a strong need to maintain control over their own lives, even if some things are beyond their current ability to continue with the control.
Adult children or caretakers can start by choosing one major issue, like taking over bill paying. Ask permission, by phrasing it in a non-threatening manner. Offer to help by explaining how the new bill payer system at the bank makes it so much easier to pay bills. Offer to facilitate the process to pay your own personal bills from your bank account at the same time as paying the bills for the senior from their own account. Explain they will have complete control over the process. They will make the decisions and you will do the work involved.
Ways to understand communicating with seniors:
Lack of Urgency
Why can’t they make a decision? Targeting your sense of urgency toward seniors can make them feel guilty and frustrated. This slows down the decision making processes.
Why do they always tell the same story? Every family has a set of stories that have been told over and over. Listen carefully to discover what is important about the story, what is being emphasized. Repetition is a sorting process which is part of a life being reviewed.
Attention to Details
Why do they fuss so much about the unimportant stuff? Recognize that their story is not a factual historical record, but a tool to minutely examine parts of their life that are significant for value and understanding of events. The answers are in the details.
Was it something I said? To get back on track to connect with a silver sage, reword the important sentences to include just the basic meanings. Keep it simple. Understand and facilitate the agenda of the senior, not yours. Uncoupling is not a hang-up, it’s a disconnect.
Some of the best communication techniques you can use:
→ Listen to what silver sages say to understand what is important to them.
→ Don’t rush the conversation. If pushed too hard too soon, many seniors will respond by digging in their heels.
→ Pose questions and offer more than one acceptable solution. Ask which choice they think is best. By doing that you not only give them control and independence, but you also involve them in the decision process and make it work for everyone, regardless of the choice.
→ Keep it simple. Raise a single issue at a time rather than a complex group of ideas or subjects all at once.
→ Be patient. Talking with your elders is a series of communications where both parties have to feel they have benefited from the outcome. Speak clearly on a level playing field. No anger, no condemnation for not being perfect and no talking down to silver sages.
We are expected to make allowances for the communication babbling habits of young children and coldness of teenagers, but we are less tolerant of the communication habits of older adults. We tend to view silver sages as oppositional, irritating and slowing down. Seniors, just like infants or teens, are on a journey in a new and unfamiliar world.
Use the communication tools to see these habits not as barriers, confrontational tactics, or signs of decline, but keys to development for this current stage of life. Appreciate these tools to become more patient and creative in your interactions with seniors and with everyone who is experiencing their own stages of development
Everybody is doing it! Aging is our universal full time job!