Engaging Seniors – Listening is Easy

By | June 13, 2015

Neil @ whatdoyouhavetoknow

Listening to Seniors

As I was growing up I was often brought to see my great aunt with my mother. At the time my great aunt was in her 80’s and was living in a senior home.

When I arrived I went to her little room where she had a bed, 2 chairs, a small sink and a television. The facilities were down the hall ad shared by many.

Every time I went into the room I noticed the television was tuned to a station showing the great war WW2 documentaries. At first it was very fascinating but eventually I became bored. As I sat there looking for something to do I watched my mother talking with my great aunt and what struck me was how intent my mother was listening to what she had to say. On my next visit more of the same but what I heard was a repetition of what was said the week before. Yet my mother sat and listened intently as if she heard it for the first time.

As I got older and found myself visiting seniors (not related) I was already conditioned to expect stories of their past and there varied exploits. The theme always reverted back to the days in the war and what they went through and how kids today did not appreciate what they had done for country and family.

Well, my experiences visiting my great aunt help me to be a patient listener. I enjoyed hearing the stories and exploits. I engaged them to tell me more. We would dialogue for hours and in the end they were extremely appreciative of my giving them the time to voice their concerns and history.

I personally did not find this to be a chore at all. In fact, I truly enjoyed sitting and listening. And why wouldn’t I. Seniors have done a lot to make what I have available. They sacrificed their lives to provide all of is with everything we have today.

All too often I hear people say how seniors are a pain both from taking care of them and moreover listening. How people can say this astounds me to the core of my existence. The seniors who provided for them without question and now they are treated like pariah. They place the importance over their own lives over the ones that gave them everything they have today and that is deplorable.

At some point in time everyone, health permitting, will be a senior wanting to shout out stories and experiences. Today’s adults and children can learn a lot from their seniors who without fail protected, cared and helped them.

So why not take an hour of your busy lives and just sit and listen. Be patient and engage the seniors. This is all they have left to look forward to. They are placed in homes, willing or not, and are left to interact on their own with people they do not know. Especially those who are inclined to interact. These folks really need someone to talk and listen to them so they do not feel left out and lonely.

The generation today is fully occupied in their own existences and have to take an hour of their time for someone else is often seen as a waste. Well, no it is not and nor should it ever be looked at that way.

Treat our seniors with the respect they deserve and give them the time they so truly need.

I look forward to hearing your stories and experiences with seniors. Please feel free to add your commentary below ad share this post with your friends and family. It will go a long way, I hope.


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10 thoughts on “Engaging Seniors – Listening is Easy

  1. San

    Hello Neil,
    Your article actually made tears well up in my eyes. To think that we treat our elderly with such an attitude. Do they not understand one day, if they live long enough, they will be they elderly? Do they not want to be treated with dignity and respect by the young?
    I was taught at a very young age to respect those who are older than I, they have walked where I have yet to go. There is so much to learn from them and all you have to do is listen.
    Thank you so much for the reminder of how important a resource for everyone our senior community is.


  2. Tanya

    Wow, this brought back so many memories of my Oma. She just passed a few months ago at the age of 96. She would tell me the same stories over and over again. At first I would get frustrated, but then I realized that these stories were her life and had so much meaning to her. So I made an effort to listen to them and ask questions. When I engaged with her, it brought such a smile to her face. Now that she is gone, I wish I would have listened to her more. People can learn a lot from seniors. They have a lot to share.

  3. Sandra Silva Gamito

    Well said, Neil! I’m glad I found your post. It made me remember of my loving grandmother. It makes 10 years that she died, but I remember of her every day. And she was also like you said. She used to tell the same stories, but I enjoyed so much… and I miss her so much.

    You are right. We with our busy lives should take some of our time to comfort and to hear the seniors. I already do that sometimes, but maybe isn’t enough. I’ll try harder because they deserve and hopefully, we one day will deserve too.

    Take care.

  4. admin

    This is so true. My grandmother, now 85, has never been the same since my grandfather passed away a few years ago. Everytime I go to see her, all she ever talks about is the past and things she used to do when she was a kid. I always sit and listen to her, even though I already know what she’s going to say.

    I love my Grandmother and I always try to get her to do things to keep her busy. Like getting a pet, or joining senior community bowling leagues (she’s very active for 85), but she never wants to leave her house. Any advice on what I can do to motivate her again?

  5. Marilyn

    While reading this post, my mind went to my mum who passed at the age of 87 and was just beginning to enter into dementia. I often listened to the same stories, but we played it out as if it was the first time the words had been spoken!

    The thing is this… she couldn’t help it, and simply telling her I’d heard the story before would only be upsetting for her.

    I have my regrets though. I can remember her calling me and saying it was a lovely day for a drive! Oh dear, I’d just taken her for a drive the day before or so, and I had stuff to do… homeschooling to do… business to run… time was precious… oh you know what I mean!

    Then suddenly she was gone! If I could turn back the clock I’d make more time than I did. I’d realize there wasn’t much time left and to make the most of every minute.

    But… unfortunately sometimes we let life get in the road of really living life!

    Thanks for bringing this all to my attention so I can be more thoughtful with someone else after my experiences.

  6. maine

    I like this site, my line of work brings me across alot of senior patients, it’s sad at times to see an older patient who has no family visiting them due to being too busy which should not be a reason, I noticed that without that sense of love and belonging they loose the thrive of life. I think that connection and intimate relationship with other makes for a healthy and happier older adult, thanks for the great advice and pointers 🙂

  7. renan

    Hi Neil,
    My mother also came to just over 97 years with an excellent memory to tell stories and old passages and occasionally she was the only one who had first-hand information when one of 6 brothers and sisters did not remember something or someone. We learned to listen carefully as this allowed to work her mind and to always been careful. May they rest in peace

  8. Samantha

    I’ve always wanted to volunteer in a seniors’ residence in some way, because I love listening to people’s stories. Thank you for this reminder to just listen!

    I know it depends on the person, but do you find that seniors are willing to answer questions about the more difficult times in their lives?

    1. Neil Graddon Post author

      No denying that seniors like to engage in conversation. Give them an opening and as long as they are still lucid they will recall all the hardships and good times to you in a heart beat.

  9. fmwaniki

    Waaoh,it is a very inspiring story i must say.Little do young kids understand what it takes to respect the elders until they reach the same age and the same way they did,no body cares too.My grand mother used to be a story teller and very strict.I liked it because it was a way of shaping us.The skills of listening and being attentive apply in our day to day life.I must say if one did not acquire them while young,then situations always force you to.A great post there.

  10. jazzy323

    This article brung tears to my eyes as it speaks so much truth…sometimes all you have to do is be there for seniors….no talking just listening. I feel that compassion and care comes easily to others and it doesn’t to some people so for those struggling with aring for seniors this article will definitely help

  11. Kevin Pola

    Great post with a very good point. People these days are loosing the art of conversation, or should I say face to face conversation. Everything is done via chat or email these days.
    Conversation is not just talking, there other skills involved and listening is a big one.
    Seniors have so much knowledge and stories to share but very few these days make the time to spend with them.

    Love your post, will return for more. Cheers kev

  12. Roy

    Neil this was a great article and it truly touched me. Yes, we are all going to grow old, God willing, and will need someone to listen to us. If we can, we should ! Respect our senior citizens. And how I respect those folk who pass this on to the young.
    Thank you very very much for this today.

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