Five great openers to start a conversation with elders

A lot of people ask me about how to talk to elderly people in their family.

They want to be involved in their lives and hear about their past but they don’t know how to start, or where to begin. I thought I’d put together a short little post on openers you can use to start a conversation.

Questions are powerful. Sometimes, asking a single question means the person will speak for half an hour, and you don’t have to say a word more.

The key thing is to engage people. To get them talking about what matters to them.

So, here are some openers that you can use to start a conversation with an elderly person:

1. Tell me about the day you got married. 

2. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

3. What was your favourite thing about your childhood?

4.  How did you feel when you graduated from high school (or college)?

5. What worries did you have about starting your own family?

These are just 5 ideas that you can use. The questions are open-ended and focus on something that is likely significant to the person.

What’s really important is that you listen to them and remain attentive. People can tell when someone is listening and when someone’s mind is somewhere else. Make sure you really listen.

These sorts of questions will likely reveal facts and stories that you have never heard before. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Don’t feel limited to my 5 suggestions. If the question is open-ended and focused on something they care about, it is a good way to start a conversation. 


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