The holiday season is fast approaching, and with a few precautions, families are able to gather in person to share a meal, exchange gifts, enjoy a festive outing, or volunteer to help others in need. But too often, elderly relatives are left out of conversations and activities because they can’t keep up with the fast pace or have difficulty hearing in noisy, crowded settings. Seniors want to be included and may become frustrated when others talk over them – a little patience and respect can go a long way in making sure everyone at the table has a voice.
Younger family members may be excited to catch up with one another and share all their exciting news and adventures. But it’s also important, and can be fascinating, to learn about the experiences of the older adults in the family or friend group. In order to promote inclusion among all people at a gathering, try practicing good listening skills with a healthy dose of patience.
Although they may not wish to acknowledge it, most older adults have some level of hearing loss. Speaking clearly, a bit slower and a little louder can help bring seniors into the conversation, but don’t shout or let frustration upset a pleasant conversation. A little humour can also go a long way to easing any tension or differences of opinion. Parents of all ages want to be treated with dignity, and a patronizing tone will only create animosity.
Families and friends may enjoy listening to music while preparing a meal, playing a game, or crafting, but background noise can make it harder for older adults to hear and participate in conversations. During mealtimes, or when group conversations are taking place, turn down the television or music and seat older adults in the middle of the group where they are better able to follow conversions and make eye contact with others – many seniors use facial cues and some lip-reading to fill in the gaps when hearing isn’t keen.
Asking questions can be a great conversation starter with older adults, and the answers may be surprising and quite interesting for younger generations to hear. Ask about their first job, their most memorable vacation, how they met their spouse, or what hobbies or interests they enjoy. There is so much to learn about the lives of our most senior family members, and sharing memories is a fun way to spend meaningful time with loved ones. Making the effort to really connect with others benefits our health and well-being in so many ways, enriching the lives of all generations.
Not sure where to start? TableTopics Conversation Starters will help get the ball rolling with festive-themed questions that can lead to discovery, reflection, and hopefully much laughter.