Words Matter to Seniors

Mother and daughter

A conference this past week in the GTA* for professionals helping seniors and their families made it abundantly clear how important words are to elders. Speakers included David Solie (by teleconference), Maureen Tabuchi, Corina Stainsby, Barry Lebow, Chris Newell, Paul Cutajar and Esther Goldstein. Since most of us in attendance are Pivotal Accredited Senior Agents (ASA), our focus is on managing a life transition when helping someone. The words we use and our intent behind the words can smooth an otherwise stressful situation. Here are some valuable takeaways from the presentations and suggested readings.

*Greater Toronto Area

The Three Questions (What, How and Who) provide a concise format for your convenience.

What to say


Question-markAs emphasized in David Solie’s book “How to Say It to Seniors”, control is a major consideration for seniors. David re-iterated the importance of this point in his teleconference. The more control you can give an elder when making decisions, the better the outcome. This usually comes from the use of choices whenever possible. Using the words choose, decide, opt or pick can be effective when someone is at an important decision point. These active verbs place them in the “driver’s seat”.
Example: “Dad, here are some options for you … Which one would you choose?”


Acknowledge loss and its impact on a senior

Restating an elder’s expression of loss in an empathetic way will demonstrate they have been heard. Offering to help in maintaining a sense of balance will go a long way in accepting the loss and adapting to it. Example: “Mom, I know how much you loved reading cozy mysteries. How, can I help you still enjoy them? Should I read to you or would audiobooks be better for you?”

How to say it


Capacity AssessorThe manner and tone that we use with anyone, especially our elders, have a direct impact on how well our message is received and accepted. “Elderly people are sensitive to an authoritarian tone that can creep into our conversation with them. … as if we’re lecturing or talking down to them, rather than trying to communicate. Legacy coaches acknowledge the elderly person’s perspective, even when we don’t agree with it.” ~ David Solie.

Who you say it to

Since most attendees at this week’s conference were seniors’ real estate agents who are typically engaged to help market a senior’s home, the message was clear. Proceed with caution and ensure the immediate family is engaged.


keys-to-houseIf there any concerns about a person’s capacity to make decisions about their care or their finances/property, it is important to involve all key parties such as the family, their lawyer and physician (via the family). Lawyer Maureen Tabuchi, suggested questions such as: “Does the elder have the capacity to make these decisions?” “Is there a Power of Attorney (POA) in place and who is named as the attorney?” “Who are the decision makers in this situation?” It may be necessary to engage the services of a Capacity Assessor to resolve any uncertainty. Technology can very helpful in simplifying family conversations despite differences in location. Tools such as Skype and Join.me are ideal for getting everyone on the same page. Also, it would be wise to read the chapter titled: “The Myth of Diminished Capacity” in David Solie’s book “How to Say It to Seniors” before addressing this topic.

If you have any thoughts on this topic such as your own experience or your reading, you are most welcome to comment below. 

*You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.

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Quill pen

Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.

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