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What Not to Say to a Senior Adult

adult daughter talking to senior mother

Communicating with senior adults is an essential part of their daily lives. Providing an outlet for them to share their thoughts and feelings can be a highly enriching part of their daily lives. Engaging in communication with other people is an important opportunity for senior adults to make social connections. Studies show that social isolation can have severe negative impacts, even raising the risk of dementia by nearly 50%. Many senior care options can provide the quality social connections senior adults need.

If you know a senior who could benefit from a social senior living community, Buckner Villas can provide an enriching environment full of quality opportunities for communication.

How to Speak to a Senior Adult

When speaking with a senior adult, it is essential to remember that they may not be able to hear as well as they used to. Be sure to communicate clearly and at a moderate volume. Don’t shout, and avoid using unfamiliar or challenging words. It may also be helpful to ask the senior adult if they need you to repeat anything.

Another thing to remember is that senior adults may not be as mobile as they used to be. Make sure to adjust your conversation accordingly. Avoid topics that require a lot of movement, like playing games or going for walks. Instead, focus on things you can talk about while sitting down.

Finally, remember that senior adults often have a lot of life experiences to share. Be sure to ask them about their past and what they’ve learned. You may be surprised by the wisdom they have to offer.

What to Avoid Saying to a Senior Adult:


“Sweetie,” “sugar,” or any variation of the two carry an inherent childlike tone. But senior adults are not children. They are adults with stories, histories, and achievements. They have lived more life than some of their caregivers combined and deserve the love and respect of an adult. Instead of “sweetie,” say “Mrs. Smith.” You can still provide tender affection with a soft touch or a gentle hug, but using a person’s name promotes dignity and respect.

“Don’t you remember?”

While some senior adults living with memory impairment don’t recognize their changing brains, others do. They feel genuine frustration with the growing lack of control over their mind and body. Asking why they can’t remember only adds to the frustration and places the blame on the senior rather than on the Alzheimer’s or dementia itself. Instead of asking questions, it may be helpful to listen. Then, provide your comments. For example, instead of asking, “Don’t you remember, we talked about this yesterday!” say, “Yes, we are going out to eat tonight. Would you like to join us?”

“You need to _________.”

Senior adults have spent their lives giving and serving. They don’t need directions for what to do. Instead of giving orders, give choices. Say, “Mom, would you like to wear your sweater, or would you like to go without one?” Choices empower the senior adult to make the decisions for themselves. Empowering them will help enrich their interactions with other adults and help them hold onto some sense of control. It can also help minimize stress and maximize engagement.

Quality Communication at Buckner Villas

At Buckner Villas, we know the importance of quality communication with our residents. That’s why we provide several opportunities for engaging in conversation through group activities, professional caregivers, and educational opportunities. We recognize the importance of our residents by delivering connection, independence, purpose, security, and service in everything we do.

Contact us today at 512.580.9882 to learn more about our senior living options.