Building a bond with a senior or older adult involves communication, social interaction, and trust. What happens if you haven’t seen a loved one in a long time, or you’ve only met them once before? Family ties may offer a head start. Family is the key word, and perhaps, the most effective tool to use. Find out about your loved one from other family members. However, what happens when you have just met this older senior for the first time? Where do you start and how?

When speaking with an elderly loved one or with any older senior don’t assume they will never understand you. Often, we are afraid to speak with a senior, perhaps, because of past experiences or because we are insecure about communicating with someone who is older.

Are there any health conditions that could interfere with communication?

Find out about current health conditions. Also, it never hurts to speak with other family members. Has there been any hearing loss? Some individuals are too embarrassed to tell anyone they cannot hear well. 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about one in three persons between 65 and 74 years of age has hearing loss. In addition, 50 percent of individuals who are older than 75 have some type of hearing loss. In fact, some many have difficulty hearing normal conversation, alarms, and even phone conversations.

In addition to hearing loss, there are some speech disorders caused by stroke, or brain injuries which can also interfere with communication. One of these disorders is dysarthria which is a motor-speech disorder.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends the following tips to use when trying to listen to someone with dysarthria.

-  Be patient

-  Get rid of other distractions and noises when other person is trying to communicate

-  Give feedback to the speaker

-  Face the person, and watch them speak

-  Speak slowly and clearly

What to ask and what to talk about with a senior?

If you have something to share, be genuine. If teenagers know when an adult is fibbing, so can seniors. Small talk will never get you anywhere. The minimalist words and the small talk with do nothing but get you on the wrong track with most seniors. Find a genuine topic or theme that is relevant to them and to you, the caregiver. However, it always helps to think of the other party first.

Do your research before the meeting. It will help you in the long run to know more about this person you meet them.

You have just been introduced and you are sitting in front of a senior you’ve just met. What next? Ask and find out, but be respectful about how you pose the question

I remember going to a small funeral of the elderly father of a neighborhood friend.  We had a small dinner after returning from the funeral and burial. Only one other elderly couple was at the dining room table. They had moved to Florida, three years before. When they said they had retired here, my immediate follow-up response was, “I am not from here either.” This answer gave me the opportunity to ask them where they were from, and at the same time it validated them because I showed them I was listening to what they were saying.

“Originally, from Kentucky,’ they couple almost said in unison, and smiled.

I recently learned that one of my great-great grandfathers was from the same area they were from and, in fact, from the same county.

What he said next was unexpected. “Fielding Hanks is my relative, too!”

It does not always work in that manner, but we have to prod, and inquire. There is no excuse for not asking and striking up a conversation.

If you have not had a chance to do your research, then improvise by looking at the surroundings. Should the opportunity arise, ask away; however, don’t start quizzing people just show how smart you are even if you happen to be a connoisseur or expert in the subject. Also, never underestimate, for you will be taken aback.

We hope this information will help all families and loved ones better prepare to communicate with seniors and older adults.

Senior Helpers of Orlando places great importance in communication and social interaction. We understand how detrimental it is for seniors to remain socially isolated.

If you are interested in contacting our office, and would like to inquire about our home health care services, call 407-628-4357. We will be glad to help you at our Orlando office.


Ana P. DeLane

Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member


***Should you be in Napa, California over the summer,  stop by and visit the local Senior Helpers office.

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