Questions to Spark a Conversation with Seniors

If conversations don’t seem to flow naturally, here are some questions that might help:

1. Who influenced your life the most?

2. What is the happiest moment of your life?

3. What is your proudest accomplishment?

4. What is your earliest memory? Note that many people’s long-term memory stays intact much longer than their short-term memory.

5. Who were your friends when you were growing up?

6. Did you have a pet?

7. Did you travel when you were younger? Where was your favorite vacation?

8. What was your favorite hobby?

9. What was school like for you as a child? What were your favorite and least favorite subjects?

10. What do you wish you’d done that you didn’t?

Conversation Tips

  • It might be tempting to finish sentences, fill in blanks, or correct inconsistencies, but it is more respectful to give your full attention. Be patient if they aren’t able to speak or think things through at their previous pace.

  • Try to stick to one topic at a time. Limit distractions to allow time to collect their thoughts. Turn off televisions or phones and move to a quiet corner, if possible.

  • This is a time of their lives that may be characterized by loss: loss of health, finances, friends, mobility, and control, to name just a few. If we let them talk about these losses, it often gives us opportunities to talk about alternatives that help them retain the control they have left

  • When planning time together, rather than asking open-ended questions, give a couple of options. For instance, instead of “What would you like to eat?,” try “Would you rather have tacos or spaghetti for dinner?”

  • Be aware of non-verbal communication. As people lose the ability to talk clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate. Facial expressions may show sadness, anger, frustration, or other emotions. Allow them to express themselves verbally and non-verbally in every way they can.

The bottom line is that all humans crave connection. They want to feel valued, respected, and loved. The efforts you make to communicate with your loved ones and seniors that you spend time with may be valued far more than you even realize and maybe even far more than they can express to you.



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