top of page

The Gift of Conversation

Besides safety, providing companionship is a top priority. Cultivating a relationship with our clients is key to establishing a trusting, safe, and loving environment for them to thrive and truly feel cared for. Interacting and having conversations with our clients while we are with them helps us know them better and meets a great need everyone has to be seen, heard, understood, validated, respected, and know that they are appreciated and loved. The gift of conversation goes two ways and is a blessing to us as much as to them.

I came across a wonderful article by a company located in Chicago - Companion for Seniors. It is a wonderful resource for family, friends, and caregivers of aging adults. Seniors are a treasure trove of experiences and memories that can be shared with us while they are able to recall memories of their past, and engage us in topics of interest to them or by us asking questions help to bring them to light. Seniors need social interaction as much as they need to stay hydrated and receive a nutritious meal. I have a client that eats like a bird unless I sit down and dine with her and talk about our lives during our meal, then she eats everything on her plate! We share about our lives while we play a game of cards. A healthy conversation goes both ways, as I mentioned. Clients tend to be interested in our lives as much as we are in theirs. Sometimes we discover things we share in common or are excited to learn more about, which opens up for a much deeper conversation.

The following article is about deepening our conversations by asking questions with some examples of the types of questions to ask:

"“Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.” — Theodore Zeldin

A great conversation can be invigorating, exciting, comforting, and informative, all at once especially when you’re talking with someone with decades of experience, knowledge, and memories to draw on.

Our companions often say that getting the chance to speak one-on-one with their senior clients is a highlight of the day, and family caregivers across the country can attest to the power of sharing stories and talking through memories with their elderly loved ones. In fact, making time to connect and share in a conversation can be one of the most enriching, rewarding, and healthy things you can do — especially for older adults.

It’s hard to overstate the profound impact that being social can have for seniors. Study upon study has demonstrated that older adults who maintain social relationships have a more positive outlook on life, experience better overall physical and mental health, and enjoy greater longevity.

What’s more, the act of reminiscing can have significant benefits for seniors in and of itself, as AgingCare explains. According to the research of Dr. Robert N. Butler, telling stories and sharing memories can give older adults the invaluable opportunity to

“…share their memories, pass on the wisdom that comes with age, better understand their lives and identities, resolve past conflicts, and connect respectfully with others on a social and often emotional level.”"
"Looking to have meaningful conversations that go beyond small talk or the weather? Here are a few types of conversation starters that can help you deepen your relationship with your senior friends and family:

Talking About Childhood

Asking questions about when your loved one was young can give you a glimpse into their past, and offer you a better understanding of your family’s history. It’s also an easy way to get many people to open up and start sharing, since childhood memories are often the most vivid and accessible, even decades later. Here are a few topics and conversation starters to try:

  • Where were you born? Can you describe the town or neighborhood you grew up in?

  • What’s the story behind your name?

  • What was your first job?

  • What did you do for fun when you were a child?

  • What were your childhood favorites — food, movie, game, colors?

  • What inventions, fads, or world events do you remember most vividly?

  • What is your earliest memory?

  • Who were your best friends growing up? What were they like?

  • What was your childhood home like?

Talking About Family and Life Events

If your senior loved one is a bit reticent to talk about themselves, try asking them questions about other people in your family, or get their experiences and accounts of major milestones and world events. Try asking questions such as:

  • What do you remember most about your parents or grandparents?

  • How did you meet your spouse? What first drew you together? How did you get engaged?

  • How did you choose your children’s names?

  • What’s something funny that one of your kids did while they were growing up?

  • What’s the most memorable vacation or trip you ever took?

  • What is the biggest purchase you’ve ever made?

  • When is the proudest you’ve ever felt?

  • What is the best place you’ve ever lived?

  • What job or workplace do you remember the most vividly? What’s your favorite story from your career?

  • What’s the best life advice you’ve ever gotten? Where did you hear it?

  • What are your favorite holidays? Is there a special party or celebration that sticks out to you?

Talking About Their Values and Identity

You can get a great sense of how your senior loved one views themselves and sees the world, without having to delve into thorny topics like politics or religion. Here are a few conversation starters that can help your older loved ones open up about their values and identity:

  • What happened on the best day of your life?

  • Who in your family do you feel that you’re the most like? How are you and I similar, or different?

  • Do you have a favorite saying or expression?

  • If you could have three wishes, what would they be?

  • What’s the highest compliment or praise you’ve ever received?

  • What is your most treasured possession?

  • What family traditions do you always want to remember and keep alive?

  • What do you think are some of your best qualities?

  • If you suddenly received a million dollars, what would you do with it?

  • Have your dreams or goals changed at all throughout your life?

Talking About the Present

Whether you’re stopping in for a holiday visit or checking in with your senior loved one over email, asking about their day-to-day experiences can be a great way to get a sense of their health and state of mind. Here are a few easy, interesting questions that can lead to broader discussions about your loved one’s daily habits and routines:

  • Do you have any hobbies or interests that you’ve been enjoying lately?

  • Who do you see most often?

  • What’s the best part of your typical day?

  • Are there any fun events or activities you’re looking forward to?

  • What things in life would you say are the most important to you now? Why?

  • What do you think has stayed the same about you throughout life? What has changed the most?

  • What was the last book, album, or movie that you enjoyed?

Talking About Aging, Life Lessons, and Legacy

While you may want to avoid heavy topics that might make your loved one sad, you may also be surprised by how much older adults want to impart the lessons that they’ve learned and share their thoughts and opinions. Many seniors are happy to be open and honest about their perspectives on life and growing older, especially when they’re talking with someone they trust and who is truly listening. Here are a few ways to start talking openly about your loved one’s lifetime and legacy:

  • What ages in your life do you remember most vividly? How was each decade different than the ones before it?

  • If you could divide your life up into chapters, how would you set up the story? What would the chapter titles be?

  • What have been some of the most formative or influential moments in your life?

  • What does it mean to be successful, in your opinion?

  • If someone were to ask you how to lead a “good” life, what advice would you give?

  • What has been the best thing about growing older? How has growing up matched up with your expectations — and how has it been different?

  • What do you think is the most different about the present, compared to when you were my age?

  • How would you summarize your philosophy on life?

  • What is the best thing about being a parent or grandparent?

Helping Your Elderly Loved One Stay Social

It’s crucial for older adults aging in place to get the support and personalized attention they need. For caregivers, it’s essential to take a break and get outside help from time to time, so that you can get the rest and relaxation you deserve.

As a result, companion care is a great fit for many seniors and family caregivers. In this arrangement, a professional companion can spend time with your senior loved one on a flexible schedule that suits the senior, and works for your needs as a family caregiver.

Companions can assist older adults in many different ways, including providing aid with activities of daily living (ADLs); helping with laundry, meal prep, and light housekeeping; and offering driving services to appointments and social gatherings.

Even more importantly? In many cases, a senior companion becomes a friend and confidant for an older adult. Companions can be there to share meals, play games, go for walks, and generally help ensure that a senior’s life is full of friendship, attention, and care.

Whether a companion comes by every day or a few times per month, there’s no telling how much a senior might benefit from having someone friendly and trustworthy in their life."

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE. Courtesy of Companions for Seniors

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page