Keep Seniors Thinking and Talking!

By francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; My uncle is really getting boring and out of it. I go and visit and he just sits there, no nothing out of his mouth. I know he wants me to visit, but I just cannot have a conversation with him. Do you have some thoughts on this sort of thing?

Yes, you have to keep him talking. If you sat in a room all alone, you would find it hard to come up with conversational topics so it’s up to you to bring them to him. When you visit think, what can we do or talk about this time and then go visit. Being prepared makes the visit so much more fun for you and for him.

Ideas to Keep Seniors Thinking & Talking:

  • There are so many sites on “what happened this day in history” type of information. It makes it very fun to use as a tool. You go to the sites and they can range from local, state, US or worldwide and they quote things that happened years ago in history. This sort of thing often has pictures too. You choose one that you think your senior will be pulled toward and print it out. This will bring out the conversation from the get go.
  • Even seniors with dementia often have very solid memories of their past history. If you bring up a question that happened in their lifetime they will respond. This is especially fun for young people doing history projects. Adding in the family memories is worth extra marks and will give them the family memory to carry forward in their own life. Like; “Grandpa, where were you when Pearl Harbor hit the radio news?” They will always have a great answer. My mother was going to the bathroom! She could hear the report on the radio and she was literally sitting on the toilet. Not fancy, but a very real experience. She immediately called Dad at work and he came home to be with her. It was a very traumatic event for everyone that was living at the time. Her memories of that moment stayed with her all her life.
  • How about questions about family? A big family box of old pictures could be a real send off for many older folks. They can go through the pictures and you can write down the names. This way, the box is not filled with strangers with no meaning. It comes alive with family names and memories.
  • Magazines that are on special topics. If the senior was a retired nurse, you might find a mag that has the latest medical updates for her to look through. Maybe not exciting to you, but a fun read for her. If your uncle always loved baseball, there are loads of baseball books and mags that could set off his memories and start the conversation.
  • Local event and construction updates. This may seem silly to you, but those people that have lived in a town all their life and now are stuck at home or in a care facility love knowing about the changes. You can talk or take a quick cell phone pic of a local project being built. This is something my mother loved to hear. We had a wonderful second Narrows Bridge being built, toward the end of her life. We would drive her by to watch it as we took her to doctor visits and then later we took pictures to show her when she was in her bed full time.
  • I took down our Christmas cards and the list- sat next to her. I wrote a name on the card and I would ask mother what she wanted to say to them. She enjoyed sending them a quick message or memory about their parents in years gone by. It was really a fun time for both of us. I got my cards done, she got connection with family. I took a picture of her holding the card and smiling and I printed a bunch of small photos to tuck into the card. Everyone wrote back. If you only do emails…then do a pic of your senior and ask them about a favorite holiday memory and put them both onto your holiday email out to the family and friends.
  • I kept a calendar and each week we would go over what was happening. Did she have a family birthday that needed a card? I got a load of cards at the Dollar store and kept them in a folder for her. I would pull one out and we would address it. If it was a young grandchild she would tuck in a dollar. It made her feel in the know and happy. Being involved…it makes life so much richer.
  • Upcoming family dinner or holiday dinner? I would ask her what she always made for the event, or what her favorite dish was and then I would make it for her. She loved that. She felt like she made it and if she could not attend the event, I took a snapshot of the dish so she could see how well it was received.
  • The House needs a repair? Talking over the problem and taking a cell pic of it and then reviewing it with a guy that has spent his life doing home repairs is a great thing to do. I remember we had a problem with a broken outside hose pipe. I went and talked about it to my uncle who did loads of plumbing and he came up with a quick and easy fix. He was happy to help, I was thrilled!
  • Find a great video online that you could share. Take your lap top and let your senior see the different things it can do. You can visit an old home on Google earth and see it from street view. You can play a YouTube video from the old Johnny Carson – Tonight Show days, you can click on a NFL game from 1962 and watch the past. It’s all there for you to share.
  • Take over a new gadget to get working. Show the senior your new cell phone, video camera, or iPod and let them know what it does and why you use it. They will enjoy the new toy and you will get the manual read!

Ideas never end, each family, each senior comes with their own set of interests and regional special events and news. I know you will have a better time with your visiting if you just give it a pre-visit think over. But I want to thank you for visiting. Your Uncle has very few visitors and you mean a lot to him. Even if he does not express it (or if he hardly remembers your name) it’s the “in the now” experience that you gift to him. Thank you for that.

Please do go and enjoy my website information at and look under Products for my workbook called Care Giving 101 Workbook, it has so many tips to help you with giving care to your senior. While you’re on my web site – click in and listen to my on-demand radio shows, I love doing them! Thanks, francy


One thought on “Keep Seniors Thinking and Talking!

  1. These are terrific pointers. Your first comments was incredibly salient…seniors who are home all day may not have (or feel they have) anything interesting to talk about. Thanks for the great ideas on getting the conversation started.

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