As we age, we deal with biological, environmental, and status changes which can leave us feeling more vulnerable.  Instead of focusing on what people can not do, acknowledge the abilities that remain, and in many cases, the wisdom that only comes with longevity and the survival of many life phases.

Outside of the typical guidelines of treating people with courtesy, there can be considerations in talking to others as their abilities change.  The following suggestions are adapted from Success with Seniors (Koonin and Stone):

à Do not infer one deficit from another (trouble seeing=trouble hearing).

à Being old does not mean being impaired.

à Problems of memory retrieval are normal effects of aging.  Concentrate on the positive.

à Do not hurry older persons – anxiety causes worse problems.

à Speak directly to the person.  Make sure he or she can see your face.

à Double check the quality of the lighting.

à Touch becomes as important as sight and hearing.

à Reminiscences are used to rework the past, to prepare for what is ending, and to orient for what is coming.

à Many elderly are not afraid of death but of the withdrawal of those around them.  They need to matter until they die.  Allow them to talk about death if they wish.

Sharing the account of one’s life is an important part of this final stage whose primary task is to reflect on living and accomplishments and to resolve “unfinished business”.  It is very important to listen to one who is recounting his or her life story. Cherish the story and the teller, before there is silence.