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  • Vilma Ginzberg

How to Talk to an Old Person

Unless you don’t care or don’t have the time right now, nevernevernever ask how are you …. We are robot-conditioned to answer fine and ask and how are you and you answer fine and nothing has changed. Instead say Hi, and good to see you.

Ask, (but only if you really care and if you are prepared to spend some time), how are you today, and then listen

Second, nevernevernever ask have you tried x-y-z for those symptoms…… the old person has been around a long time and is not new to any symptom in the book and has long ago learned how to navigate around most symptoms

Sometimes the old person needs the attentiveness rather than another already-tried solution

If you really are in a solution-finding position, instead ask what have you tried and how did that work? and then maybe is there anything you have put off trying and why have you not tried it until now? or what are your hesitations about trying that one? Then maybe you can help if you want to

Try asking what are you looking forward to today or this week and ask more about that ……the old person would rather talk about that than any symptoms anyway….. try to be minimally interested even if it is about genealogy or some other old person’s boring hobby

Ask about the family, especially the kids or grandkids and especially great-grandkids and then try your heroic best by remembering at least one name you can ask about at another time the old person will love you

Ask: what makes you feel good these days? …. And then at some other time but not too far off try to make it happen

© Vilma Ginzberg 10.6.2019

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Jul 15, 2023

Thank you! Very helpful. I’m old enough to relate but still fall into the “how are you?” routine. Deep listening and questions that arise from that listening have a better chance of creating a reciprocal and authentic connection.

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