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How to Have a Conversation With a Senior

Devika enjoys sharing her work with a friendly community. Writing opens the mind. I live in a foreign country learned a foreign language .

Elderly people and Longevity

Seniors become slower in speech, hearing becomes a problem, and it is a problem to communicate with a senior when having small conversations. I recently experienced such issues with a seventy year old male, and I had become frustrated at first, but realized I need to be patient with this elderly person.

Every day is becoming harder, emotionally and in conversations with this person. I don't see this person as an elderly. I feel I am talking to someone but do not see them as old or incompetent. The increased tension and disagreements I had to go through has made me feel the responsibilities I have should be given to a caregiver.

The individual is no family member, though a next door neighbor, and a close friend I took on this responsibility. I enjoyed a chat with the seniors next door and offered temporary help to the seventy year old male.

Unfortunately, due to the many difficulties I had conversations with the elderly person, I couldn’t cope with everything by myself. I suggested they get help from a caregiver. The friction between us and the frustration had increased including the communication wasn’t healthy for us.

I couldn’t engage in communication and understand the needs of the elderly being. A two-way communication is crucial, but it wasn’t effective for us both.

There wasn’t an easy and effective way for us to communicate to one another. I provided support and know that a care giver can do that better than I. Listen carefully to what is said by the elderly person before answering their questions or advising them.

You have to know how to reply to their questions. Try to put together what the other is saying to you to make sense of it all. No one agrees all the time.

You need to respect the opinions of others and see the situation from all sides. Disagreeing with an elderly is not going to get you a gold medal. It is pressure on you and the elderly person.

You shouldn't disregard what you hear from the senior. It is often about how you should cope with the seventy year old, then argue and get to no point in the conversation. Accept each other’s differences and move on from that.

As a young adult you do not see the loss of hearing in the elderly and expect them to converse as you do. The problem with the elderly, they do not admit their hearing loss or that they have a problem hearing you. The understanding in conversations becomes weaker and troublesome to you.

The best option is to be calm at all times. Speak in a gentle voice and avoid shouting at the elderly. Being an elderly is no fun and games when you have to go through ups and downs of health issues.

You could speak louder, but no yelling!

  • Avoid talking in a haste the elderly won’t understand you.
  • Speak in short sentences, and less complicated sentences.
  • Sometimes grasping your conversation can be a problem for an elder person.

Try speaking in phrases.

  • The most difficult is when speaking to an elderly and you expect them to react to a question the way you would do.
  • Another misconception is trying to talk in full sentences and detailed information on many topics, the elderly can only grasp some of that information.

It is not worthy to the elderly to speak to them as if they are a child.

This is condescending to the elderly to speak to them as if they are a child. In this way you can make the issue bigger and argumentative. Create a calm environment for the elderly. Sit closer to the elderly person to hear each other clearer.

You may not know what it is like to be older, so spend time with the elderly to have an idea of this different life. Communication can be frustrating, but if you do what is required of you such involvements could be felt effortless.

As one ages, lots occur to break down their skills, making life face, immobility, limited skills, memory loss sets in, a decrease in stamina, one becomes lonely, and everything else becomes a challenge in one’s life in this phase of life.

You, when young do not consider any of this as you think you are invincible. What you once did, you can longer tackle when older.

At some point in your life you feel you can’t go there or do that anymore. To make happy moments, laugh at something and give that sense of humor to create a good environment.

To an elderly person it doesn’t feel like running a marathon, or a walk in the park, at this time it feels like a stroll in the park. Sometimes talking to an elderly person is not effective. They do not understand you, leaving you alone in the middle of what you thought was an important conversation.

The attention span is not available to you.

I experienced this a few times when I had conversations with an elderly person. They talk, but with small conversation and deviate from that topic immediately, leaving me aside as if I am not there.

It is difficult to reason or to question that type of behavior.

I have noticed that small conversations are better understood than anything complex.

The short term memory loss is more common than the long term memory loss.

  • Encourage them to speak and make conversation.
  • Avoid giving the elder person unwanted advice.
  • If you advise an elderly it would make them feel belittled.
  • No senior wants advice from a younger person.
  • A better way to form a relationship or a conversation with an elderly is to make the conversation about their past.

Engage in topics of interest.

  • The many topics of interest that gets the elderly to speak up is asking them about their past.
  • They would tell you everything you want to know.
  • About a childhood memory.
  • Who is related to whom in the family through the generations going down the family tree.

How did they pass the time in their generations?

The life lessons learned from their time in the past to the present.

Were they happier with their past than in the present?

How do they feel about modern technology?

How are they affected by the present lifestyle?

Ask about how their lives were and of the modern day lifestyle?

What have they accomplished in the past that couldn’t be accomplished in the present?

What were their favorite meals back in their day?

How did they spend their free time?

What did they do for fun?

Did they have a favorite meal, movie or song?

  • Keep in mind that you can learn a lot from elderly people.
  • They too have their favorite shows, meals, and good friends as you do.
  • Age is what causes the differences and not many younger people understand that.
  • One has to respect the elderly and to connect to the elderly.
  • One day you too would be the same.

How old would you say it is old?

Elder people enjoying conversations


Elderly people and communication

Communication with the elderly people requires patience

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Devika Primić


Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 19, 2020:

Demas W Jasper It is a great idea to start one but in Croatia there is no scope for such programs Thank you for sharing your suggestion and stopping by to leave a coment.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on October 18, 2020:

In the USA the government has funded the Senior Copanion Program I have written about. It is one program that benefits the government, the volunteer, and the person benefitting from having a regular companion to read to them, write and answer for them, socialize with them, take them shopping and to needed appointments. If you are eligible, then volunteer. And, if your country does not have such a program, you might help to start one. Good article Devika. Keep it up.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 07, 2020:

Kalpana lyer thank you for comment. I so agree with you on that note. ''But it does get difficult over time when the senses are weakened.''

Kalpana Iyer from India on October 06, 2020:

Informative hub! I generally like conversing with seniors because they have so much experience. But it does get difficult over time when the senses are weakened.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 19, 2020:

Dale Anderson thank you for sharing your opinions here. I appreciate that you stopped by to comment. It is communication that brings people closer and understanding too.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 19, 2020:

Rajan Singh Jolly Thank you kindly for supporting me.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 18, 2020:

Useful tips to understand and converse better with seniors. This sure requires a lot of patience but realising that each one of us has to pass through this route in life should make for a easier communication. Thanks for sharing.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 18, 2020:

This is a thoughtful article that I believe will help many people. I was fortunate enough to grow up quite close to many elderly people so I think I get along with them very well. At least I hope that I do.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 15, 2020:

Adrienne Farricelli Great experiences and so interesting of yours. Thank you for sharing that

Adrienne Farricelli on September 14, 2020:

All the points you make are very true and I have encountered them in my interactions with seniors. This beings back memories of my older cousin who used to ask things and forget minutes later so he kept asking and asking the same things over and over. We all had patience to repeat. Our patience paid off when it was time for him to offer us cookies, as he forgot about offering them so he kept offering them over and over which was great as he always had great cookies!

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 12, 2020:


I know that one day at that age one gets to see their life as the elderly. It is what life is isn't it? Thank you

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 12, 2020:

Denise, it is a challenge if one has no experience in making conversations with the elderly person.Thank you for sharing your experience with the elderly.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 12, 2020:

femi thank you for sharing your opinion. I appreciate your comments.

femi from Nigeria on September 11, 2020:

The elderly have difficulty following conversation and prone to forget things.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 11, 2020:

I used to work with the elderly and they can be fascinating. They have such stories to tell. I loved getting them to talk about themselves and then just listen.



sowspeaks from Bengaluru on September 11, 2020:

Hi Devika, this is an interesting topic and the last sentence kind of summed it all up - one day you too would be the same.

The list of topics for conversation is very useful. I think elders carry an ocean of knowledge and if we can tap into that the going gets easy. Thanks for the valuable share.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Hi Liz It is nice of you to comment. I The elderly deserve to be with their own age group and to have conversations in their daily lives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Mary Norton, thank you for a useful comment. Great idea to keep in touch with your friends,

Liz Westwood from UK on September 11, 2020:

It seems to me that listening is key. The more you learn about someone, whatever their age, the more conversation topics you can explore with them. I often find it interesting to listen to experiences of those a little older than myself.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 11, 2020:

We are now at this age level so we laugh at ourselves now that life has changed for us. Many of my friends are from my childhood years so we have much to share. We call each other often, too. I think because we have kept up with recent development, we find it easy to talk with all age levels. I know the desperation of my nieces when they talk to their parents.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Hello Raymond Philippe That is interesting that you talk more to other sin your time of life. It is the best way to keep mentally fit to communicate and go on with a social life. I am pleased you stopped by thank you very much.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

FlourishAnyway that is interesting that she behaved that way. Just goes to show she is that proper lady. Good on her. Thank you for sharing that and I appreciate your presence at m hubs.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Linda you are right! It depends on the individual and not every person is the same at the age of 70. I appreciate your support, thank you and take care

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Lora Hollings Thank you very much for sharing your opinion. I am pleased to hear that, I have written a very good article which can serve as a guide on how better to communicate with an elderly person. It makes me see the value in this topic.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Pamela Oglesby thank you very much for sharing that. It is a pleasure to spend time with older people.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Dora Weithers Interesting of the young people to make conversation with the elderly and think of themselves in that same age group someday. Thank you

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Kavya Jain thank you for stopping by, always appreciated.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Eric thank you kindly and your are right! '' Love him or hate him our president seems to do quite well in his 70's'' Something to think about there.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Hi Lorna thank you for comments. I think the topics of interest is a way to get through conversations.

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Bill thank you

Devika Primić (author) from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 11, 2020:

Peggy so true and my neighbor has other resources. It is an experience that I learned from and know what's like to be with the elderly. Thank you

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on September 11, 2020:

Hi Devika, that can indeed be difficult. Being able to communicate with a senior IMO comes down to his or her mental and physical health and if there are common grounds of interest. But of course, you must be interested in the conversation too. As I am getting more senior myself, I have noticed I like talking and spending time with others more than I used to.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 10, 2020:

People vary significantly in their health status and temperament and thus one older person may be non-hearing impaired, very mentally sharp, might even still be employed, may exercise regularly, be great with technology and social media may be witty too. The next elder could be quite the opposite, you just don’t know. My 70-something year old mother became frustrated at a young man and told him that she was retired not retarded so treat her with respect. He was being pushy and condescending. She is a very proper lady so it must have been bad.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 10, 2020:

I certainly agree that we should help older people who are having problems. You have included some good advice in this article. I think the age at which someone is classified as an elderly person in need of help depends on the individual, however.

Many seventy-year-old people today are mentally and/or physically active. It was kind of you to interact with your neighbor. It seems that he as an individual has reached seventy and requires help. This isn't necessarily true for other people of the same age.

Lora Hollings on September 10, 2020:

Devika, you make some very good points in your article. Although I have relatives in this age group, and they don't show any memory problems, language or hearing difficulties, there are differences in people and how quickly or slowly they age. I think the answer is, as you point out, to always show respect for them just as you expect others to respect you as in "Do unto others as you would have others do onto you." I think talking about happy times in their lives, is always a very good way to establish a good rapport and bond with the elderly. I also think that it is a good idea to encourage them to get involved with other seniors in their area and if they need more help to seek out a caregiver. You have written a very good article which can serve as a guide on how better to communicate with an elderly person. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 10, 2020:

As I am an older woman I wold like to add that some people are easier to deal with than others. Hearing loss is a problem for sure. Some are more competent than others. It sounds like you learned a lot dealing with your neighbor and you have some great suggestions, Devika. Young people do feel invincible and I did to many years ago.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 10, 2020:

Thanks, Devika. The elderly deserve all the compassion and understanding they can get. Younger people will relate better to them if they remember that they are the future elderly. Good topic!

Kavya Jain on September 10, 2020:

The observations are on point. I am certainly going to use some of these practices in my next conversation with an elderly. Great article.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 10, 2020:

This is very interesting. The age group seems a bit young to me these days. But our age for retirement is 65 here in the US so what do I know? Love him or hate him our president seems to do quite well in his 70's.

But you point and discussion are right on the point in my experience. This is well done and reminds me to get out and see senors more. It is a treat. Thanks for this.

Lorna Lamon on September 10, 2020:

My training in psychology has helped immensely when communicating with various age groups. I have a few elderly relatives and also post Covid visited age care homes as a member of the Red Cross. Most of the elderly I visited suffered with dementia and depression.

You have made some very important points, in particular 'Engaging in topics of interest'. Very often it's realising their needs, interests and what they have been through. Great article Devika.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 10, 2020:

You're speaking to one right now, and I can understand you quite well. lol

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 10, 2020:

Not all older adults are hard of hearing and suffer memory loss, although some of that happens to many over time. As someone who fits the general age description of your neighbor, I appreciate speaking with people of all ages. It is excellent when younger people can learn from older ones and vice-versa. I am sure that your neighbor appreciates the time you spend with him. If he lives alone and needs more help than you can offer, I hope he has other resources available to him.

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