ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Talking with Your Elderly Parents

Updated on June 21, 2010

Improve Your Relationship

My mother is 89 years old and has been living alone since my father passed away 7 years ago. She is very independent - no assisted living facility for her - but isolated because she can't get out on her own. Consequently, when I visit her she wants to talk - a lot.

Like most people her age her conversation runs to reminiscing, blow-by-blow descriptions of her favorite television program, and recitals of her aliments. It often tests the limits of patience and I admit I am tempted to just tune her out, something she is quite sensitive to. Instead, I practice these techniques to keep her engaged in lively conversation. They improve our relationship and keep my brains from turning to mush.


Your parent patiently listened to your baby talk, your childish nonsense, your adolescent whining, and your young adult money woes. Keep that in mind when you hear about Great Aunt Stella's roller coaster ride for the thousandth time. Set a time limit, say 5 to 10 minutes, during which you resolve to give her your undivided attention. Then you can move to Step 2.

Gently Change the Subject

Remember your parent doesn't want to be tedious, he just wants someone to talk to. Most any subject will do. After your 10 minutes of polite attention are up, start listening for an opening. If your dad mentions how he won first prize at the county fair 50 years ago (as he's mentioned every week for the past 10 months), enthusiastically interrupt and ask if he's seen the peaches at the local farmer's market. Then subtly shift the conversation toward the new topic and branch out from there.  At least you will hear some different stories!

Don't Contradict or Correct

Unless your mom is making statements that could affect her health or safety ("The doctor told me to take 5 of these tablets every 2 hours"), there is no need to correct or question every minor comment. It doesn't matter that Cousin Jean, not Aunt Edie, gave her the porcelain bowl in the hallway. Correcting her only slows the conversation or, worse, causes her to lose her train of thought and start over.

Avoid Controversy

Avoid highly controversial subjects, like politics. These tend to turn into negative diatribes and, in my mother's case, opinions based on a confusion of the facts. Again, don't correct. Listen intently, validate the opinion with an innocuous statement that can be interpreted as agreement ("Wow. That is quite a law Congress passed"), and then steer the topic to something less incendiary ("Did you hear Congress has approved more money for the space shuttle program?") Keep an interested tone that suggests "I want to hear your opinion about this new topic".

Keep Engaged

Keep engaged in the conversation to keep it moving. Most people, even your elderly parent, just want the opportunity for human interaction. They want to talk with you, not at you. Try these suggestions - you can only improve your relationship with your parent and make his or her life more enjoyable.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)