Interacting with Older Adults

Oak Hills serves a wide variety of populations. The majority of populations we server, however, are older adults. When interacting with older adults, there are a few vital elements that we need to focus on:

  1. Person-hood: Older adults are individuals with a diverse life course, each an individual person. They cannot be viewed solely through the lens of their group membership as a ‘senior’. Seek the person behind the label, see the individual, not the demographic.
  2. Dignity: Older adults are frequently the passive victims of a diminutizing form of communication called Elderspeak where people address them with terms of endearment typically reserved for children. Older adults are not children, even if their behaviors at times fall into something that appears child-like. They are adults and should be treated as such which means not taking liberties with informality of forms of address.
  3. Locus of Control: Older adults sometimes need to have their mastery over themselves confirmed. Their sense of mastery has a direct link to the sense of meaning in their lives. Interaction should focus upon building this capacity for them to remain masters of their domain, as much as their physical or cognitive limitations might allow.

When interacting with older adults, it can be beneficial to remember the following tips:

  • Get on their level and look directly at them when speaking. Speak clearly.
  • Be patient. You need to allow time for them to absorb, understand, think, and respond.
  • Minimize loud music, television, and other possible interruptions.
  • Address them by their name when greeting them.
  • Be aware of changes in mood or behavior during a visit and adapt accordingly.

Remembering these elements and tips can help provide a good quality interaction with the older adult population.

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