As a fully-fledged ‘senior citizen’ I have developed a respectful understanding of the importance of celebrating Seniors Week.
Every year, each Australian state celebrates this large annual event for senior citizens at different times of the year. In Queensland our week has officially begun and ends 26 August 2018.
It is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the importance of positive community attitudes towards older, ageing people and to recognise the contributions and sacrifices we have made, let alone the fact that we are still alive! Many of my aunts and uncles were dead at my age.
It is the largest seniors’ celebration in the state and is all about connecting communities, providing opportunities for people to share and learn new experiences, discovering support services and providing assistance to reduce social isolation.
Diverse events and activities are available and range from flash mobs, club open days, expos, sailing and cruises, digital literacy and coding sessions, online talent quests, cinema days, art classes, workshops, cabarets, yoga, ballet, Zumba, music revivals and much more.
Apart from a plethora of healthy alternatives It is also comforting to know how dance is finally being recognised as an essential ingredient to improve health and wellbeing in older adults. It is something I have been passionate about for years as it enhances neuroplasticity of the brain and your neural connectivity. Some findings suggest there is a 76% chance of reduced risk of dementia from dancing.
Our inspiration Queensland Ballet artistic director Li Cunxin is also passionate about the connection between the arts and health and is delivering a special one-off large-scale ballet class designed for older adults to be held this Sunday August 26, held at Ithaca Auditorium in Brisbane City Hall from 8.30am.
For events and activities near you, visit www.qldseniorsweek.org.au or phone 1300 738 348.
The Need for Improved Understanding
I’m not sure what a senior supposedly feels like. I don’t feel too indifferent from when I was younger apart from accepting who I am and not worrying about things that are not important.
It appears to be more about how we are perceived by others which can be disconcerting i.e. a lack of understanding of our position in life. Assumptions are made and our communication with seniors can be somewhat ineffective.
Our generation born between 1946 & 1964 is living longer with life expectancies to well above the age of eighty. Older people can no longer be tucked away and ignored, in fact they have become a vital ingredient for the younger generation whether they realise it or not.
We have life experience and a status that comes with age. Our credibility should not be undermined nor seen as insignificant.
It is important our family and friends understand our position in life i.e. where we have come from and why we may have conflicting opinions to those around us. Meaningful relationships with older adults, unique communication and caring skills and strategies need to be applied, particularly if they are not fully self-sufficient.
5 Ways for Effective Communication with Older Adults
- Exercise Patience and Compassion
Patience and compassion are often needed when dealing with the elderly. Physical challenges, slow movement, forgetfulness, neediness, and apathy are just some of the behaviours you might encounter. Sometimes this may be difficult but don’t give up and try to put yourself in the senior’s shoes.
Helpful comments such “It must not be easy…,” or “It must be hard….” shows empathy and compassion. If, however, despite your best efforts, your patience still runs thin, take time out from the older adult if possible. Come back when you’re in a calmer state of mind.
- Ask Instead of Order
One of the core needs of many seniors is to feel relevant and respected. You can help validate these needs by frequently asking instead of ordering when communicating with the older adult. For example: Instead of: “You must exercise today” replace it with “I will help you with your exercise, is that okay?”
Asking questions offers the senior a greater sense of respect and regard. Offering options gives her or him a greater sense of control of the immediate environment and they feel part of the decision making process with some degree of control over their life.
- Ask Instead of Assume
Similarly, ask questions instead of making assumptions when it comes to your actions in relations to the older adult. For example, instead of turning the lights off in the senior’s room without asking, say “I’m going to turn off the lights for you, okay?” If the senior protests, let them have their way if it’s harmless, or explain why it’s important for you to do what you need to do.
- Use “I” instead of “You” Language
People generally don’t respond well when they feel like they’re constantly being ordered what to do. Such “bossy” language is often manifested in the use of “you” statements, followed by a directive. For example: “You should take your medicine!” is better with “It’s important to take your medicine”.
When people feel like they’re being bossed around on a regular basis, they’re more likely going to respond with what psychologists call the “Three F’s – Fight, Flight, and Freeze”, that lead to behavioural problems such as argument, avoidance, or stonewalling.
- Offer Choices Whenever Possible
Many older adults desire to maintain a sense of independence. This may be especially important when seniors feel they have physical and cognitive limitations, but still desire ways to maintain some level of local control in their lives.
Whenever possible and appropriate, offer choices when interacting with them. This can be as simple as asking whether the senior would like to have a choice of A or B. This can provide them with a greater sense of confidence, esteem, and security, as the senior feels the power to be proactive in life.
Note: Not all of these ideas may apply to your particular situation, try to see which best fits
Acknowledgments: Sunday Courier Mail, Cassandra Houghton article in Looking Forward. Queensland Government Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors. Psychology Today & author Professor Preston Ni MSBA of “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People” and “Communication Success with Four Personality Types” provides five tips for successful communication with seniors