Saturday, October 29, 2016

Anxiety Issues Talking with Seniors

I usually share my blog posts in other forums (please share them with others too!).  It's led to some conversations that don't take place directly on Blog to Action, but I think I'll start sharing some of those conversations here also.

This post is a follow-up to a conversation about "Volunteer with Seniors".
Blog to Action - Talking to Seniors
CC0 image courtesy G. Altmann on Pixabay
The reader described having anxiety issues about talking to older people.  He had concerns about potentially not having anything in common with seniors to talk about who might have different worldviews or with seniors that may even be grumpy, loud, and who may ask too many personal questions.  The reader had seen positive experiences between younger people visiting with seniors depicted on television and in plays, but just did not have similar personal experiences.

Here's an excerpt from my reply:
I don't think that your anxiety is a weird one at all. In fact, some of the feelings you describe are very familiar to me for interactions with anyone and not just older people. For a good portion of my life, I have spent the majority of my time just listening to and observing others (you can learn a lot that way actually). I was afraid to initiate conversations for fear of not having anything in common or that I might just say something "uninteresting". Over time, I've learned to force myself to try…even if just as a way to prompt someone else to continue talking. Today, it's a lot easier for me to initiate conversation with someone that I don't already know but it still takes effort. Over time I've found that doing so has lead to many more positive outcomes than negative ones in both work and social situations.
In these situations I often ask myself internally "What's the worst that could happen?" and now I realize that whatever the possible outcome may be that it won't be the end of the world - I have the ability to learn from whatever the outcome and move on to another experience. I even have the same anxious feeling posting this public reply to you and others, but I'm working through it anyway. It's getting easier to share, but I still have a long way to go if I'm going to be an active blogger or online community member.
Perhaps you could try approaching visiting a senior the same way? It won't be the end of the world if you don't "hit it off". Perhaps you could go with a friend who might be able to help carry conversation if/when you don't feel able to do so on your own. You could also go into it not expecting that you will have anything in common and just try to ask open ended questions to get the person to share more about his or her past experiences in life. Treat it as a potential learning experience. You may learn about a time in history. You could even gain a better understanding of a worldview even if you don't agree with it or consider it acceptable in today's time. In fact, getting a better understanding of someone with a different worldview may better empower you do communicate with people your own age or younger with similar worldviews different than your own.
If the person you visit is not talkative (e.g., it may be difficult for him or her to speak), you could spend time sharing something about yourself or your recent day's activities. If you don't want to talk about yourself, you could talk about something going on in the world around you. As I think about it now, you could even share about your experiences here, online, in virtual communities. It may be that the senior has not experienced, heard of, or even conceived of having such a broad stage for conversation.
Yes, like anyone else, seniors may be grumpy or "nosey" and completely uninhibited about expressing themselves to you. Just keep in mind that they may be in a situation where they may have felt like they have not had a recent opportunity to express themselves to anyone else in the same way or hear about someone else's life outside of the current walls in which they currently live. That might make anyone grumpy or anxious to have a view into the world that they may no longer be able to personally get themselves.
If the senior you visit is grumpy, try to listen to understand why. Perhaps he or she has been unable to get desired assistance from an attendant all day (e.g., to turn the channel on a television). Perhaps he or she hasn't heard from a family member for an extended period of time (you could ask open ended questions about the family member and try to steer the conversation in a more positive direction). And yes, sometimes people can just be naturally grumpy or even downright mean. You can always politely end a visit and try again another time (don't you ever have bad days yourself?).
Oh, and yes, hearing can fade and you may find someone speaking loudly or find that you have to talk with a slightly louder voice to be heard. I guess that's just a fact of life. You may find it easier to deal with if you recognize that you're not the only one having to adjust…there are likely many others with better hearing in the same environment who are having to try to adjust in the same ways.
Thank you again for sharing and I appreciate that you took the time to read my post and comment on it. I hope that you a great weekend! :)

No comments :

Post a Comment