In the age of technology and social media, there is a loss of communication. The communication gap is widening between the elderspeak and the teenagers/family members. Following the daily routine, a working family often forgets the presence of an elderly around them. There is a laptop, there is a mobile phone, there is work, there is a child to take care of, and then there is them.
Older people also need a listener, they too have the desire to share their stories, emotions, and feelings. After all, they are only humans. They need to be heard as well—in a way that is deep and active; not merely superficial. How often do you sit with the elderly in your home, and ask them about their experiences? Have you made them feel that there is someone for them too, someone who would listen to their worries?
Listening is a simple yet arduous task. Listening to someone is giving them their space to share what they are feeling, what concerns them, understanding what it is like for them or what emotions are involved, what they are thinking. And we know that we have listened to them by the response that they give us, with the look of relief on their faces or, a smile for instance. Now, how can you make the elderlies feel heard? Here are some key points to keep in mind while interacting with the elderly:
● Make them feel warm and welcomed: Remove the tension, if any, between yourself and the elderly, make them feel safe. Create such an environment where they can share anything they want to. Often, the elders think that we know more than them about today’s world and it will only be embarrassing to talk about things with us, therefore, make them feel comfortable and included.
● Avoid talking in a high pitched voice and the use of elderspeak: We have a self-conceived notion that most elderlies have a hearing problem and therefore, we directly use high pitched voice while starting a conversation with them. Avoid such behaviors and don’t engage yourself with the use of Elderspeak. Most people use “Hello, Sweetie” etc., while addressing the elderlies, while some might find this cute and acceptable, the others may not. Elderspeak is an inappropriate simplified speech register that sounds like baby talk and is commonly used with older adults, especially in health care settings. Keep in mind that you are talking to a person and try to be normal, calm, respectful, and warm.
● Make them feel connected and encourage them to talk/share: When we talk to elderlies, we have to make sure to talk or raise topics about things that they might find interesting. Sometimes people are not sure about what it is that is concerning them or what is it that they wanted to talk about, it can happen with older people too, in that case just encourage them to talk, but don’t make them feel pressurized. Talk about the topics they can relate to. Most of the time, older people want to share their stories or give advices, listening to these might just make their day.
● Be there for them and that is enough: The older people never expect much, even being there for them when they need you can make them happy. Smile with them, go on small walks with them, play some board games with them, watch old movies with them and that’s all they actually need. Spend as much time as you can with them. Make them feel heard and seen.
It is only human to have our own opinions on various things, but while listening to someone we need to have an approach that welcomes the other person’s thoughts and opinions rather than emphasizing on our own. We need to listen to them and make sure that they are involved as much as we are, in a conversation. This applies to every age group, no matter who you are listening to. In the case of elderlies, we need to understand the vast generation gap and the fact that they might perceive things way more differently than we do.
To make our lives easier, there are going to be more and more inventions made every day, but we must not forget to communicate with people, we must not forget to listen.