I need some help please...

United States
July 15, 2007 1:43pm CST
I am a volunteer for my local Commission on Aging and am part of the "Friendly Visitors" program. I go once a week to an elderly woman's house and spend time with her (about an hour or two). Well, she is 83 years old and honestly, I don't know what to talk to her about! So far I have gone to see her a few times and she is very nice. She talks and talks and I don't say much... She talks about when she was young and I honestly can't relate at all.. I feel awkward when I am there. Basically I'm asking, what are some conversation starters I might be able to use when I go to visit next?
39 people like this
76 responses
@Rozie37 (15499)
• Turkmenistan
15 Jul 07
You are volunteering to help her, so it is okay to just listen and be there for her. If the conversation turns to something you can realte to, them join in. Other wise just be there to listen to her. Maybe that is what she reaay needs.
• United States
15 Jul 07
Thank you, Rozie. I think you're right. She doesn't get a lot of visitors so she has a lot to talk about and I am a good listener, so I guess it was a good match. Thank you :)
4 people like this
• Kottayam, India
15 Jul 07
Listening is a good habit more people like others listen them.
4 people like this
@GardenGerty (109086)
• United States
15 Jul 07
If she talks and talks, that is good, she needs someone to actually hear her. Does she have a skill she could teach you, or that you would like to learn about? Crochet, knit, tat, food preserving, frugal living. Is there a part of history that you would like first hand knowledge of. I will always regret the fact that I did not write down or taperecord my husband's grandmother's memories. She rode in a covered wagon in the Oklahoma land run, then in her seventies and eighties, she was flying across country, that was a big span of experiences there. Are you happy about something, or sad about something, share these things with her. I want to say that I really applaud you for the willingness to make an effort, and I wish more people did. It is hard, but it can be so worth it.
@Geminigirl (1909)
• United States
15 Jul 07
You know, older people are so great. They can talk about nearly anything. All you have to do is get them started, and like everyone, they like to talk about themselves and their interests. Ask her interest questions. What is her favorite type of food. Italian? Mexican? Good old American? Does/did she like to cook? If so, what was her best/favorite dish? Does she still have the recipe, and would she share it? Did she have a favorite pet, and what was its name? Does she like cats or dogs? Does she have kids, and if so, what are their names, ages, and where are they now? Does she like to travel? Favorite place to visit? Favorite movie? Did she grow up during the Depression? What was it like for her family, etc. Was she married? How did she meet her husband, etc. I think as long as you smile and are a good listener and engage yourself, most any question will be great. Thank you for working with older people, that is such a great thing for you to do!!
@maddysmommy (16233)
• United States
15 Jul 07
I would be more inclined to ask her about her life as she grew up, what it was like living back then, what was the world like and so forth. Do you know of any interests she might have? find out more on those and talk to her about them. Hope that helps.
@wmaharper (2316)
• United States
15 Jul 07
First, let me say, I think it's so great taht you take time out and spend it with her. Do you have children? if so, you should bring them along sometimes, as older people generally LOVE to be around children, none of your own kids? Bring along a neice a nephew, a neighbor.. if you can. As far as what to talk about, I'm sure if you just listen, you will have some interesting things to say to what she says. She is problably filled with wisdom that she can pass along to you, so take it for what it is, a blessing. If you feel a little awkward, tell her. Say "I feel bad, because I don't really have a lot to contribute to your conversations, I am very interested though, I just don't know how to go about this." Honesty is always the best policy, and it will prob. open up a new facet for your relationship. Good luck. HOpe all goes well.
6 people like this
@crickethear (1420)
• United States
15 Jul 07
here are some questions How many in your family Tell me stories about when you were growing up What was it like for your family during the depression? Tell me what things you did when you were a kid? What was your favorite date? What sort of things did you do when you dated? How did you meet your husband, and how did he purpose? How many kids did you have? Have you traveled much? Where? What was your varoite place?
• United States
15 Jul 07
That is exactly almost word for word what I told her above.
2 people like this
• United States
15 Jul 07
probably pretty much what everyone would tell her. No need to be a rocket scientist. Anyone who has had a grandparent, knows what they like to talk about it.
2 people like this
• United States
15 Jul 07
I think that probably just being there to listen really helps her a lot. Many elderly people don't get a lot of visitors, and they just enjoy having someone to talk to that isn't their cat or dog or themself. Are your grandparents still living? If they have already passed on, there are surely things that they used to do or say that you are curious about, and she might have some insight on these things, as it may be a part of that generation's outlook on life. I know that I was always confused about some of the ways my grandparents behaved, and since they are no longer with us, I can't exactly ask them about it.
@kimthedane (1000)
• Denmark
15 Jul 07
Sorry woo, i do not mean to be rude, but maybe you are in the wrong type of volunteering job. Dont sound to me as you need any conversation starters at all, as you state she talks and talks, so i do not see your problem. For who's sake is it you go and visit this lady, for her's or for your own. Maybe if you tried to be a little more openminded you would be able to hear what she is really talking about and ask into it. Or have you tried to be honest with her, tell you how you feel. That you are new in this field and you find it difficult. This i am sure is possible for you to do in a way so she dont get offended or hurt by you. All the best. :)
3 people like this
• United States
15 Jul 07
When I said that she talks and talks I meant she has a lot to say and I feel that I don't, not that I wasn't listening. I am visiting her for both of our sake. The point of the program is for both people to get something out of it... a new friend and company. I am not in the wrong volunteering job, but I am still learning a lot about others and myself. This job is only helping me to grow.
4 people like this
• Denmark
15 Jul 07
Sorry, you sound a little pissed of with me. I hope i did not offend you as that was not my intention. Just wanted to give you some advice on volunteering jobs thats all.
3 people like this
• United States
15 Jul 07
No, I am not pissed off :) I was just trying to clarify because it seemed like you were trying to say I should give up my volunteer job and that perhaps I wasn't listening to her.
4 people like this
• Philippines
17 Jul 07
just be all ears i guess..people like them needs someone to talk and listen to them..with their past life and what had happen through the years..they most likely wanna share so much that some of their attendants cannot do so because they are probably busy..you can tell her stories about you fisrt..so she would get to know you then in a long run the talking will just go on itself..
2 people like this
@davido (1623)
• Canada
16 Jul 07
Thats good enough at least she can says all she still has in her before moving on, its okay you might not need to say much just make sure you are learning something from her sayings. Let her do the talking at least respond only when you have to. Stay cool be happy.
@timay23 (21)
• Philippines
16 Jul 07
you hv to do that, frst you set your mind tha evrytme you saw her you realy hv to smle all the tme so that she whould nt think that she whould be deid... and mkea stategy to make her happy... and more patient try to appreciate her...ok Godbless
2 people like this
@tuffy999 (794)
• Philippines
16 Jul 07
how nice of you to volunteer your time to help out old people. for starter just have a listening ear even if you can't relate at all. old people loves to talk about the past. then when shes finish maybe you can read the paper to her for starter. or you can watch tv together.
2 people like this
@derek_a (10898)
16 Jul 07
I find that older people find it as hard to relate to modern times as we do of to their younger days. All they really want is someone to listen to them and be interested. It may seem difficult, but you should really feel awkward because you can't say very much and what I find it good to do is to ask questions about what she is talking about - this shows interest and will make the older person happier :-)
2 people like this
@whyaskq (7532)
• Singapore
16 Jul 07
The elderly woman reminds me of my late grandmother. I used to visit her once a year and when she sees me, she starts talking and she talks non-stop for hours. It makes my life easier as initially I too have hesitations and reservations what to do if I see her. So every time when I visit her, I just greet her, ask how is she and then let her talk. I too cannot relate nor understand what she is talking, but there wasn't any awkwardness at all. I just quietly observe her, giving her the notion that I am listening by nodding, or just echo a word or two. I just let her enjoy herself talking. In my opinion, what she needs is a listener or someone to talk to and I happen to be that someone. In your case, for conversation starters, just start off with how is she and I guess the story will continue. You may want to conduct an interview and send it to the reporters. lol.
2 people like this
@Thoroughrob (11750)
• United States
16 Jul 07
If nothing else talk about her favorite recipes, shows she likes to watch, places she has been. I am guessing she will just enjoy your company. Go outside and watch the birds and look at the flowers, just about anything will do.
2 people like this
@mizrae (587)
• United States
16 Jul 07
There is not much more I can add about conversation starters that you haven't already received from the previous posters. I really just wanted to comment that I believe your discomfort will disappear as your visits continue. As everyone else has stated, your elderly "new" friends is lonely especially after losing her husband. She probably doesn't even care what you talk about as long as you come for a visit. When I was delivering meals to the elderly I was told over and over again that they were so glad just to see another face. I applaud your volunteering. You can't help but gain greater insights in dealing with others.
• Philippines
16 Jul 07
First thing as a volunteer, you need to have the heart, heart to love, couse without it you can't love the old lady. And concern means a lot of thing specialy if she is old already. What are her concern? HEr want? Her loves? or What are the things she haven't got to do or wish of doing that you can help her done it. Like talk to her long lost son that she haven't seen for a long time. Ask her wishes? Help her do it.
• United States
16 Jul 07
That is a good point. I am trying to help her decide where she wants to move now that she can no longer take care of her home and 100 acres of land. She asks me a lot about what it's like to live in an apartment because she never has and is afraid to move into one. Thank you for the response.
• Philippines
21 Jul 07
Have you try to ask her relative about it? What happen? Can you share some more?
@chertsy (3804)
• United States
15 Jul 07
I believe the elderly have really good stories to tell. Just sit and listen, I remember when my neighbor would tell stories. I miss those days a lot. You can start off by asking her about things that happened long ago that has a interest to you. She probably just wants someone to listen to her, since at that age, people seem to think they aren't worth to be around anymore. Just have fun with her and she will notice as well. You can also bring her flowers that will brighten her day. I hope what I said helped some.
1 person likes this
• United States
15 Jul 07
Bringing her flowers is a very good idea. I think I will do that. Thank you very much.
1 person likes this
@chertsy (3804)
• United States
15 Jul 07
Your welcome.
1 person likes this
@Katlady2 (9920)
• United States
21 Jul 07
The next time you visit with her, ask her about what it was like when she was a kid. I know you already said she likes talking about things like that. And even if you don't have a lot to say, it's really fun listening to the elderly talk about the good old days. You'd be surprised at all of the history that your friend can impart to you. It will put a new light on some of that history you learned about in school. LOL
1 person likes this
@KrisNY (7591)
• United States
17 Jul 07
Why not ask her what she thinks the biggest differences are from her growing up to you growing up- I love to sit and listen to the elderly tell stories of their lives and memories- Ask about the land and what it was like when she was a child- what did they do for fun? What was school like? Etc. I bet she just loves having someone to talk to-