Barriers in communication with elderly people

Communication is a significant constituent of our lives. It serves as a tool for information exchange and sharing experiences, but most importantly, it is a form of entertainment. We communicate incessantly even while being unaware of it, not only verbally but also by means of gestures, poises or facial expressions, and thanks to that, we can feel like a part of a community.  Unfortunately, sometimes some obstacles may be encountered on this ground. This article is going to cover the subject of people in the age range 75-90.

At the beginning, the consequences of ageing should be discussed. To begin with, hearing starts to deteriorate around the age of 50. Moreover, the parlance is getting less clear, due to gradual lingual hyperplasia and loss of teeth. The brain’s volume decreases, causing memory deterioration.

Senior’s speeches are often chaotic which seems to a barrier equally important to physiological malfunctions. They include plenty of digressions and unnecessary details, which makes it hard to tell what their point is. The reason of this problem is sometimes a lack of concentration, but usually it is caused by loneliness or stress. In addition, with age, it is getting harder to remember vocabulary that used to be known well (tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon). Processing information can take more time than it used to in the past.

So how should we talk to seniors to make them feel comfortable? In fact, as always, the most important thing is to show them respect. We need to be patient and give our converser as much time as they need. Let’s avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences. Furthermore, maintaining eye contact and avoiding distractions is significant for giving the appearance of listening.

A common mistake is so called “baby talk”, which means talking to seniors as if they were kids. It is evinced by using short and easy sentences, multiple diminutives and the “we” form instead of “you”. For example, “now we’re gonna eat lunch, sweety” rather than “Now you are going to eat your lunch”. Of course, while using this form, people do not have bad intentions. We just want to show sympathy and attention. But the elderly are unanimous: this way of communication stresses out their weaknesses, puts them on a lower position and makes them feel dominated.

To sum up, for effective communication with seniors, the most important factor is to understand the inabilities they have to face every day and unjust our way of communicating to them. Sometimes the opportunity to “offload” is the only thing they need right now. Let’s show them empathy and even if the topic seems to last forever, we should let them talk. At the same time, we should avoid treating senior in a “special” way. At the end, it is necessary to point out that the problems discussed in the article are not universal. It is rare for all of them to appear at once. In most cases only few of them do exist.