I asked four esteemed colleagues to participate in a panel discussion titled “What Seniors (and their Families) Want – How to Promote Your Services Effectively and Respectfully.” The discussion was brilliant, and made for a very rewarding meeting of our Aging in Place Business Round Table from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
It was also Dawn Schultz’s birthday, we celebrated by lighting the candles of a healthy happy birthday apple!
The panelists were:
- Dawn Schultz, volunteer at Charlottesville’s Senior Center Inc.
- Susan Siedler, CSA, Information & Assistance Supervisor, JABA (Jefferson Area Board on Aging)
- Brenda Wilson, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, Director and Eldercare Specialist, University of Virginia Health System Faculty and Employee Assistance Program
- Ellen Phipps, CTRS, Vice President-Programs & Services, Alzheimer’s Association Central and Western Virginia Chapter
The following summary of the presentation offers valuable tips and reminders for all of us. Thank you, panelists!
When Communicating with Senior Citizens:
What types of communications create openness?
- Being relaxed and attentive, including eye-to-eye contact
- Asking what is currently most important to the individual
- If the individual is having trouble stating purpose of visit, letting them know you are interested in their issues, concerns, fears, desires, wishes because one of these words may trigger a way for the individual to start talking about why they have contacted you
- Offering assistance based on what individual wants, not what you think is best for him/her
- Being aware of limitations in sight, hearing, mobility or cognition – if there are limitations – but not assuming limitations exist if they do not
- Being patient – allowing a slower pace
- Including seniors as valuable consumers in their own right
- Recognizing the senior as the expert in their own situation
- Marketing messages should be clear; simple; easy-to-understand; if written, easy-to-read; as brief as possible; free of jargon, acronyms, etc. Take the time to know your audience and adjust your message accordingly
What types of communications cause senior citizens to shut down?
- Fidgeting, looking down or otherwise not focusing on the individual(s)
- Not listening fully to individual including what s/he is not saying as well as what s/he is saying; assuming what s/he wants without confirming
- Telling the individual what to do rather than offering options and allowing the individual to make the decisions s/he feels are best
- Marketing messages that are unclear, not well-organized, hard to follow, too long and involved to keep the audience’s attention, not of an appropriate nature for the audience; written communications that are too busy with distracting graphics, crowded on the page, contain too much text and not enough other elements of visual interest to break up the text such as white space, callouts, etc.
- Using jargon, including pop-culture references
- Utilizing technology with frail seniors if they find it overwhelming
- Assuming limitations exist if they do not
- “Elderspeak” – condescending, singsong, overly loud speech
- Placing limitations on seniors simply to make things easier for other people
When Communicating with the Adult Children of Seniors
What types of communications create openness?
- Time is of the essence! Be clear and concise
- Opportunities for one-stop shopping
- Cost-effective services
- Quick demonstrations of competence
- Authenticity, especially when it comes to expertise or lack thereof
- Clear, brief communications, using bullet points rather than long paragraphs, and avoiding jargon
- Being friendly, sincere, approachable and available
- Demonstrating the ability to fill the need quickly, capably, and easily
What types of communications cause adult children to shut down?
- Long emails and communications
- Slickness/”too-good-to-be true” communications
- Being pushy
Tips for Effective Communication
- Be authentic
- Be respectful
- Be patient
- Encourage questions
- Offer choices whenever possible/Let the individual make the decisions.
- Be educated (for example, be aware of the Beers List of contraindicated medications for seniors)
- Have an office environment that is conducive to potential limitations
- Don’t assume limitations exist just based on age
- Make your communications brief, clear, and direct
- Recognize the time constraints and financial concerns of adult children
- Recognize the senior as the expert in their own life
Go to this link to see the full text of Dawn Schultz’s portion of this presentation.
Know someone who worries about their elderly parent inCharlottesville, Staunton, or Harrisonburg Virginia? Care is There Geriatric Care Management can help! Have them contact me, Elizabeth, for a free consultation: 434.326.5323ext 2 or Elizabeth@careisthere.com.
Elizabeth Swider, Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Aging in Place Specialist
President, Care is There Geriatric Care Management
Support for independent living and long distance caregiving; assisted living enhancement