How often have we heard someone who is younger comment about their difficulty in communicating with an older relative or friend? Has it been way too long since our last meaningful conversation with our younger friends and family members? This concern is becoming more common as technology progresses. Newer forms of staying connected through communication is also increasing. It appears there is an amount of push back from younger generations that are not able to understand why it might be difficult for those of us who are aging to be able to make the jump between two seemingly different worlds. So how do we bridge this communication gap that only seems to be widening?
Moving at the Speed of Life - Not Light
First, it's important to remember that our younger counterpart is most likely not trying to make us upset or ignore us. The speed of life has reached an all time high! Communication today is almost instantaneous and patience seems to be a lost virtue. It is not only common now, but also expected that everyone moves along at this fast pace. They juggle more than they ever have before. Calendars are jammed packed with Zoom (virtual) meetings and phone calls, interrupted by text messages, emails and snap chats.
It can be incredibly stressful to live under that pressure today. When we speak with those living in this high stress, fast-paced world, try inquiring about how they are feeling with this pressure. Express understanding about how stressful it must be for them. One approach that can help bring you closer is to let them know they always have you. They have a place and time where they can speak to you in person in a much calmer environment. That alone may be enough for them to look forward to visiting or calling more often.
Remain Calm - They Love Us
Second, it's important to remain calm when speaking about any difficulty we are having with anyone. Especially with someone coming from a very different perspective or life experience. Even if we have a good point to make, it comes across much better if we are calm when stating our opinion than if we are already angry. So, when we need to approach our friend and loved one, try to remember to stay calm as we say, “I've tried to call you a number of times, but I haven't heard from you in weeks.”
Change is the Only Constant
Third, recognize that they may not be used to communicating in some of the ways we are accustomed to communicating. Such as using the phone or visiting in person. Along with everything else in our world, means of communications have been changing at an alarming rate. These days people are far more used to communicating via text message, email or Facebook than through letters or even calls on the telephone. Staring at a screen is the new norm. Eye contact seems to be a lost art.
Whatever our opinion is of this change in communication and society, it is a reality, at least for now. So, if we're really wanting to stay in touch with someone, be sure to ask them about the best time to contact them and the best way to reach them. I've met many grandparents who started an Instagram account just so to be better connected to their grandchildrens' lives (as their parents post numerous pictures of them on Instagram).
Put Down the Phone - Connect by Disconnecting
Finally, if you have a younger friend who visits or calls regularly, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them and their time. Encourage them to take time to disconnect from the hectic communication forms that are prevalent in today's world. Put the smart phone down and breath! As they learn how to engage more fully with the people they are with, they will be appreciative of you and you're helping them to connect by disconnecting.
Everyone can learn from previous generations! While we need to learn more about the technology of today's world and the forms of communication that comes with it, there are also a few things that we can teach others about the closeness that comes from older forms of communication. Communicating (and the building of meaningful relationships) is not, nor has it ever been, easy and requires our effort. It is, however, worth it for those that pursue genuine relationships.
Are you considering having an elderly family member move in with you? This is often a transition step that people take to save money on nursing home or other expenses or in order to assist them emotionally in a transition such as the death of a spouse. But, how difficult is this change, and is it even advisable? Hopefully you'll find some help below.
The first thing that you need to consider is whether your relationship can withstand long periods of time together while being enjoyable for both of you. Be honest when you answer this question. If you've always struggled with resentment against a parent or relative or if they've struggled with the same thing from you, make sure that you do not enter into this arrangement without a GREAT deal of forethought. Financial or other kinds of stress can sometimes make us do things that we would normally not consider to be good choices. If your choice to have someone join you in your home is due to feeling so compulsion or obligation, resentment will only grow into bitterness & worse in the years to come. Neither of you will be healthy & your relationship could go from rocky to horrible very quickly.
Next, if you both feel that your relationship can withstand this arrangement, set up some ground rules. Talk about how you will handle any conflict that comes up. Consider having a protocol in place where either individual can feel free to say, “I feel like we need to talk, will it work for us to talk tonight after dinner,” or something similar. If there is a standard in place, neither of you will feel it necessary to yell to be heard & both will feel that they can talk in a healthy way.
Another ground rule to have in place is that you'll both have responsibilities. It's important that everyone in a household feel useful, from the smallest member to the oldest. Perhaps your older relative is not physically able to do much, but they can help in other ways. If there are youngsters (grandchildren/great-grandchildren) that come to visit, it could be their responsibility to sit with them for a time after dinner & read stories or teach them a card game. They could put photographs into books or boxes that need to be sorted. They could crochet or mend, look for grocery sales/coupons, or perform some small effort that would genuinely be valuable to the household, yet not be physically demanding. If they're unable to read because of poor eyesight, or write anymore, ask them to record a verbal family history so that you & the rest of the family will have it for the future. Your responsibilities should also be clearly in place. Talk about who will cook, clear, & wash dishes. Mundane things can often make or break relationship.
Discuss finances before any moving takes place. It will be on the minds of the both of you, so you might as well “air the laundry” in advance. Discuss who is responsible for what. If you are fine with them living in a guest home that you have free of charge, are you also fine with covering utilities. If you'll be eating every meal together, who will pay for the groceries? Discuss these things in detail & don't forget things like insurance costs and other things that are uncomfortable. Might as well get all the discomfort out of the way from the first so that you can all be comfortable afterward!
Schedules. Talk about this too! Schedules are nearly as important as finances when it comes to daily tasks. If you work full or part-time & they tend to have many appointments for medical needs, discuss an arrangement that might work for driving to & from, or find a local shuttle service that might be able to transport.
Consider their comfort. Our bodies change dramatically as we age, so if they'll be sharing the same quarters as the rest of the family, consider things that might help them to feel more at home in a foreign place. Room darkening curtains so that they can get the rest they need when they need it (this might include a nap...even if it makes you jealous!) Finding a way to make their area of the home the right temperature for them can be a big help to both of you. If you like it very warm or very cool in your home, make accommodations for them if they are opposite. Ask BEFORE they move in what they usually keep their thermostat at in the house so that you can prepare. Also, be sure that you have a heating pad & blankets close to their favorite chair. Find out what type of chair & bed they use for comfort. If their current ones are too difficult for them to maneuver on their own, consider getting a different one that will work better to keep them as self-sufficient as possible. Install a shower chair, shower head with a hose, gripping bars, etc. in the bathroom for ease of use. Consider the entrance to your home, stairways & other potentially hazardous spots. How will you make those things safe for the newest member of your family to stay with you?
Finally, talk with them about their will & if they have any living will, as well. If they'll be spending their waning years with you, you will need to know what types of life support they are okay with, should their medical needs come to that. After their death, you'll need to know whether they have funeral arrangements made somewhere & which parts are already taken care of. None of us likes to think about these things in advance, but having it squared away in advance gives us the time we need to go through the grieving process without additional anxiety about arrangements. It's also very comforting to know what your loved one wants when they are unable to speak for themselves.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list, as every situation will be different. Communication is key when it comes to every area of life, and this is no different. Make these years spent together be a gift for both parties to hold in their memories.
Communications and Aging
How often have you heard someone who is older comment about their difficulty in communicating with a younger friend or relative? It is becoming increasingly more common as technology progresses, & there is an increasing amount of push back from younger generations that are not able to understand why it might be difficult for those of us who are aging to be able to make the transition between two seemingly different worlds. So how do we bridge this gap that only seems to be widening?
First, it's important to remain calm when speaking about any difficulty you are having with anyone, and especially with someone coming from a very different worldview. Even if you have a good point to make, it comes across much better if you are calm when stating your opinion than if you are already angry. So, when you need to approach the person, try to remember to stay calm as you say, “I've tried to call you a number of times, but I haven't heard from you in weeks.”
Second, it's important to remember that your younger counterpart is most likely not trying to make you upset. The speed of life has reached an all time high. It is not only common, but also expected that they will move right along at that pace & be able to juggle more than they ever have before. It can be incredibly stressful to live under that pressure. When you speak with them, try inquiring about how they are dealing with that, how stressful it must be and let them know that they always have a place where they can speak to you in person in a much calmer environment. That alone may be enough for them to look forward to visiting or calling more often.
Third, recognize that they may not be used to communicating in some of the ways you are accustomed to communicating. Along with everything else in our world, means of communications have been changing at an alarming rate. These days people are far more used to communicating via text message, email or Facebook than through letters or even calls on the telephone. Whatever our opinion is of this change in society, it is the reality, at least for now. So, if you're really wanting to stay in touch with someone, be sure to ask them about the best time to contact them, & the best way to reach them.
Finally, if you have a younger friend who visits or calls regularly, be sure to let them know that you appreciate them & their time. Encourage them to take times to disconnect from the hectic communication forms that are prevalent in today's world & learn how to engage more fully with the people they are with. Everyone can learn from previous generations & while we need to learn more about the technology of today's world & the communication that goes with it, there are also a few things that we can teach others about the closeness that comes from real communication. Communicating is not, nor has it ever been, easy. It is, however, worth it for those that pursue genuine relationships.
How Important is a Social Life to the Elderly?
Throughout history, there have always been those who are more comfortable in social situations and those who are less comfortable in the same situations. There are various types of personalities which thrive in large group settings where they can mingle freely & those who are not anti-social, but would prefer to have fewer and closer friendships. As we age, this does not change, but oftentimes it becomes more challenging to meet the social needs that we have. Our relatives & friends who are younger have very active lifestyles which may not be conducive for a drop in visit as often as we'd like. Some of those closer to our age have passed on or have moved into different living situations making it nearly impossible to get together on a regular basis. It would be easy to sit back and feel sorry about our circumstances and finally, to give up trying to form new friendships.
If you look at research, however, that is the very last thing that we should do in order to stay healthy for longer! Social engagement can help to stave off dementia if it is combined with physical exercise, mental activity & a good diet. It's an important part of a holistic health plan for yourself or a loved one you are trying to help.
But what types of social engagement might be enjoyable or appropriate for the aging? For starters, volunteer work of various kinds is available for elderly people that are still wanting to be involved in affecting change in our society. Many people work in charitable thrift stores sorting clothing & other items. Some that have repair skills have started up community repair shops where people can have belongings repaired instead of throwing them out. Baking or cooking for those in need, or being a part of a sewing/quilting/crocheting group that makes things for those in need are also great ideas to start off with.
If you are from the quieter side of society, perhaps playing cards with a smaller number of people would be more to your liking, various other activities might include chess, pottery or ceramics, painting classes, a music or singing group, or even a book club. These activities may have fewer people involved, but are just as important to those attending them for a sense of belonging, stability, & engagement with others.
We all need friendships, but until recently their importance for our overall health had not been studied. The more we discover, the more we realize just how much they impact our lives, mental health & emotional state.
Reach out to others today and just see of those acquaintances become valuable friendships down the road!