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.
How many times have you thought that you really should get together with this or that elderly relative, or call them to see how they are doing? How many times have you heard the life story of an unrelated person and been deeply encouraged by their struggle & triumphs in life? How many times have you gone to the funeral of a dear one & regretted that you didn't take the time to ask them just a little more, or reach out to connect with them on a deeper level?
All of us, as humans, have an intrinsic need to connect on a deeper level with other people. There is something comforting about knowing that someone else knows & accepts who we are & still cares enough to continue friendship. We need connection in order to learn & grow from other people, but we also need to share with them about our lives so that we know that the struggles were not in vain or wasted.
This time period in history is unprecedented with regards to technology, and, one would think that that fact makes it easier to connect in a meaningful way with those we care about. The opposite seems to be true, however. We send quick texts to those who have that option available & generally the subjects are not those that help anyone to get to know one another better, but rather help us solidify schedules & send grocery lists. On social media sites we're (necessarily so) more likely to post less personal information & not have a true conversation with someone. Phone calls have even begun to go by the wayside, especially with the younger generation.
I don't have the answers for ensuring that we don't lose connection from one another. It does begin with us, though. We can start by setting aside 30 minutes & calling to schedule a visit with someone we love. Visit an elderly friend or relative & bring them a snack & listen to their stories from long ago. If you're unable to visit, take time to make a call. Everyone talks about the busyness of life, yet many of those same people are on social media often, or know all about the latest episodes of their favorite television shows. If we have time for those less important endeavors, perhaps we do have the ability to make time for more important times of connection. It does require something from us, but the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.
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.
Combating Loneliness In The Golden Years
Loneliness is a very real problem for people of all ages, but it seems to prey greatly on those of advancing years. It can cause all kinds of issues, from undue stress, to depression & feelings of worthlessness. While all of us naturally will have times in our lives that are more lonely than others, we need not just go with the flow if the time period is becoming extended. There are things we can do to fight it off & lighten the heaviness created by it.
First, evaluate the changes that have occurred in your life to make you feel this way. Has there been a death of a loved one? Have several friends moved to other places like nursing homes or #assisted living facilities? Are there family and friends that are struggling with their health & are no longer able to go out and about like they used to? Are you struggling with your health? It's important to think through all of the many changes so that you understand why you are justifiably struggling during this time. Every major change in life brings about stress, & big changes such as these will take time to heal & require thought to develop a plan for how life will continue best after having fought through them.
Second, find your strengths. Are you naturally a gathering person? What I mean by this is do you like to gather people together for functions or even just to have them come to your kitchen for a cup of coffee and conversation? If you are, start small, but make a couple of calls to people you feel may be likely to accept your invitation.
Third, consider starting new traditions. I know of someone who gathers her aunt & cousin together on the same date every year to celebrate their birthdays which all fall in the same month. They look forward to the conversation & time with people that they otherwise do not see on a regular basis, even though they live within 1 hour of each other. If you have cousins, nephews & nieces, friends, children or grandchildren that you don't see often, consider organizing an occasion to visit together. It does not have to be a large gathering, though it could be, if you desire to put in a lot of effort.
Consider getting a pet if your living situation allows for it. Something about a dog or cat, or even a bird, makes humans feel less alone. It's nice to have someone to talk to as we bustle about our day. Someone that shows affection to us on the days when we see nary a soul. Someone to care for & that cares that we've gotten up to greet the day with them.
Observe nature. Watching the birds that come to your feeders & having a book on hand can help to combat loneliness. Knowing that there is a world of quiet solitude that is also full of life can help us as we enter this stage of life. Taking walks & identifying the trees we see along the paths, or the flowers & plants will make you feel as though your are coming to meet new friends & watch how they progress throughout the year. Even indoor plants can have this affect as we wait for the blossoming times & take cuttings to form new plants to offer to family and friends. Field guides are incredibly helpful in all these areas to become truly familiar with the things that you find. You may be surprised at what you locate that you've never noticed before.
Join clubs, guilds or community organizations. There are as many clubs, guilds and organizations out there as there are hobbies & interests. If you cannot find them in person, you may be able to find them online & be able to chat with people with similar interests in forums. If you are fortunate to find a quilting guild, for instance, near you, make it a point to attend meetings & offer any help that you're able to give. Several communities have senior centers to get involved in. Other communities have home economics groups that meet. Nearly every community has community education courses that one could take if they were interested in any of the courses offered. These are several ways in which to reach out to the broader community and meet people with whom you do not otherwise interact. Maybe you'll make a steadfast friend, or at the very least, you'll pass the time in a productive manner & learn new skills. Either way, the time was not wasted!
Consider music. Whether it's playing an instrument, singing or simply listening to & learning music, this can be a very worthwhile aid in combating loneliness. Music has the ability to change emotion. It can lighten our darker moods or dampen our light moods. If you have a talent with an instrument, consider passing that on to a student or two. I knew an older woman of 92 who was still giving lessons to a couple of children a week, even though she had early stages of #dementia. She may not have had the lessons laid out consecutively each week, but the students were still learning & growing, not just from the piano that she taught, but also greater lessons about what it means to care for someone going through the frightening changes of old age. If you do not know how to play an instrument, simply play music. It does not matter the genre. Try to listen to a number of works by a certain composer. See if you can identify their songs by only hearing them, even if you do not see who wrote it. Try listening to music from different generations & get a feel for the music that stirred them. Then bring it up in conversation when you meet someone from that generation. They may be very surprised that you know the groups that were popular, and it may be an opening into more meaningful conversations.
Lastly, do not feel alone in your loneliness. This may sound ridiculous, but sometimes simply knowing that this is a common thing for all of us to face helps a great deal. We're all learning and growing through this process, just as we have through all the other challenges we've faced in life. Let's face it with strength and a little ingenuity. We'll get through it just fine!
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!