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What do Mom and Dad really want as they age? Ter Scott with AlwaysConnectedCareDOTcom offers answers.

As an installer of personal emergency response systems for about ten years as a stranger coming to a senior’s home and placing these unidentified objects on their counters, then telling them that all would be better now was probably the hardest thing in the process. 

Sure, sometimes I was stalled at the phone step of setting up the appointment with, “I don’t want it”, “my kids are making me do this” and other expletives to which I calmly replied, “They… (always blame it on “they”) want me to stop by and explain things”. So when I get in their door and do everything I can with my body language, listening skills, and speaking slowly to “sell” them on the idea that having and using this new contraption will truly help them, they agree to give it a try. 

“Your kids won’t be calling you all the time checking in on you”, and “you will now have independence and freedom”; my basic practical and hopefully appropriate responses were always couched in emotion because people make decisions emotionally. I knew that I wasn’t getting a “commission” as I was an installer so I used that to my advantage. I would tell them “I’m not trying to sell you on this but your kids love you and want you to have it. So, why not try it for a few weeks, and if you absolutely can’t stand it, I’ll come back and get it”. True, I wasn’t a “salesperson” but using this puppy dog close helped reason with the senior in denial and I very, very seldom ever had to return to retrieve it. Their children or whoever ordered the unit never had a clue how hard I sometimes worked on their behalf but I knew they sincerely wanted their loved ones safe and I knew that having a fall response unit in their home would accomplish this.

To further help understand human nature in yours and my dealing with humans (which might even work with animals) I suggest you find the book, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. We’ll cover the subject more when we are in the chapter, Talk About it. For now, I won’t share what those five love languages are but what I will tell you is that we must find out what the other person’s love language is to communicate in that language. Most people speak, talk and communicate in every way possible to everyone in his or her own love language (as Dale Carnegie told us that most people love to talk about themselves!).

Another quick example that demonstrates how we must communicate in the way others, and in our case our aging seniors, want to be communicated with is when your child texts you and you call back. You will get their voice mail most of the time; they do not return your call- they text! So, here is a tip to make a better connection that may be more of a “rule”. When someone text’s you, text back when they call and leave a message, you return with a phone call (unless you are the parent and really, really need to talk to your child. In my case, I leave voicemails and still get a text back. I don’t know about you but when I get an actual phone call from any one of my three kids after I find out that this is not an emergency, I thank them profusely for actually being able to hear their voice). So here is the "rule". When someone emails you, reply via email. When someone uses snail mail, snail mail them back. (Hint, the senior generation loves to get snail mail and handwritten notes and holiday cards. And kids if you are reading this, please don’t just “text” your dad a “Happy Birthday”). When someone uses smoke signals, use smoke signals; you get the idea. (I’m Native American and I assure you “using smoke signals” is not offensive, at least to me. Hmmm, maybe I should consider sending smoke signals to my daughter who lives about 5 hours from me).

Please note, it is not up to others to understand and use your love languages to please you. We cannot change others; we can only change ourselves, and in so doing we may be able to change others but never count on it. It would be nice if others knew this rule and returned calls when we call, but in knowing that some siblings and parents do not communicate at all, I’m happy to communicate via texts. I suggest that you learn the 5 love languages and use them in both social and business settings; the results are truly remarkable. Giving the book as a gift to your child or your company staff is highly recommended.

Don't Fall for Anything is directed to caregivers and seniors who may have sight challenges, keeping with knowing and understanding my audience, I’ve also published this to communicate in large print.

So what is it the seniors want most? Maybe we simply start with what they want, period. 

The easy answer is that they are people like you and me. They are your parents and you’ve known each other for some time; they are your grandparents and it's a good chance that what you like and want are the very same things that they like and want. I understand this may not help some who don’t know what they want, but that is for a different book. If that is you, try keeping up. 

Fortunately, we don’t need to make this more complicated than it is. In sales, we find out what a person wants and needs, then we provide it (and regardless of what you and I think, we are all in “sales” in some sort of fashion; minimally we are persuading people as in this case it may be to persuade our parents to remember to take their meds and keep their PERS wristband on at all times…). 

And how do we find out what they need and want (which is not just based on our own observations) is to simply, wait for it… we ask them! When we ask we many times find out that our speculations do not match their specifications. 

Here are some of the findings as to what seniors value, but please try not to “judge” and think something is too fantastic or could never be. In their minds and hearts, it is achievable, doable, and very much reality. Your grandparents may have been considered “old” at forty-five or fifty but today many in their sixties, seventies; and even in the nineties are fully vibrant and alive.

The National Council of Aging found out a few years back state that about 65% would love to be as healthy as they were ten years ago. However, 65% realize they have two or more chronic health conditions.

71% of seniors feel their community is responsive to their needs but that it can use some improvement. I ask what is considered “community”; their home, church, medical staff, the neighbors on and around their block, their children? As a caregiver, you may want to ask your loved one the specifics.

At the time of my writing this, almost 50% have access to pensions; which of course will change as this generation passes. Pensions aren’t as common as they previously were. About 25% of retirees plan to rely on social security to “get by”. How does that translate to a caregiver? I’m a caregiver to my older brother who is on Social Security and for me, this translates as being a taxi driver, accountant, organizer of opportunities that can involve him, and sometimes a philanthropist which I know I'm not the "lone Ranger" as so many are helping those who are "living on a fixed income”.

Only about 28% of seniors think that “age is a state of mind”; and personally I hope that percentage improves. Attitude is everything and "thinking makes it so".  I do believe, however, that when safety, confidence, peace of mind, and a safer home and on-the-go environment are achieved that seniors can forget aging a bit more and start living again!

Almost 90% feel they are confident in maintaining a high quality of life. Whether this is true or not, I can't say. I started our conversation by saying that we shouldn’t think their thoughts are too fantastic or unachievable. And I don’t think we want to give in to the temptation here. We all know of seniors who are hoarders and have tripping hazards in their homes. We know of seniors who don’t get out and exercise to keep fit. Others we know do not socialize. Many forget to take their medications. There are a host of examples including those who are in denial thinking they do not need to have a remote emergency response system in their home and on their person. That is not maintaining a “quality of life”. I also know of caregivers, children with parents who live alone and are candidates for a remote emergency monitoring system who keep putting it off, or you are a parent or grandparent who continues to put off subscribing to a system. I hope that as we continue together in Don't Fall for Anything that you'll see just how much having your own system will help you to get what you really want right now in this stage of living. 

To understand what seniors want; understanding that they and we love many of the same things, I suggest you try to keep in mind these ten things and I would make a list of each and revisit them frequently. I would also suggest that in these ten areas, we who are younger may not realize that these things which seem harmless and easy for us, contain hidden dangers which become prevalent as one becomes older.  

When we are young, health is taken for granted. We fall out of trees, break an arm and heal quickly. Older adults fall from a standing position, break a hip and lie there for sixteen or more hours before they are found. By then their health has deteriorated to the point where now they require nursing care for the duration of their now shortened life span.

Osteoporosis, arthritis, hearing impairment can all equate to issues of being unstable creating susceptibility to falling. I’ve noticed now that when we go to the doctor for anything; physicals, eye treatments, shots; anything it seems they always ask now, “have you fallen recently, do you think you may fall, are you afraid of falling?” We don’t want to harp on this but fitting it into our conversations I believe is critical to having our senior loved ones maintain that quality of life they desire.

Relationships are so valued by seniors; that of friends and especially family. Sadly, so many have children who do not call or visit.

I remember reading somewhere that newborn babies who were suffering and not getting better were prescribed to be held and cuddled by nursing staff and quickly improved. This treatment works at any age.

It’s been proven that hugs do all kinds of good things, including reducing stress, reducing fears, and reducing pain. Hugging and even touching can instill confidence, improve heart health, and protect from illness. It definitely improves communication. Years ago I attended a convention where the speaker assigned each of us, listeners, to go home, hug our parents and tell them we love them. If you get just one thing from Don't Fall for Anything; go home, hug your mom, hug your dad and tell them you love them. You may think you are doing this for them but it does something to your own soul. It may not be easy but do it; it’s worth it. Have you hugged a senior today?

I’ve already mentioned the desire for “community” as being important for our aging population. We all love to associate with friends, shop, and be part of society. Being younger we may not be aware of the complications which can arise from one walking to and getting up into a bus to be transported somewhere. Being assured of help is just a push of a button away gives the confidence and freedom to leave home and enjoy life out in the community.

Most everyone loves to eat and that includes your grandparents; as long as everything else in life has them being up to doing so. The simple pleasures of eating and even remembering to eat, and what to eat; and to remember to take necessary medication can become a “chore” instead of a pleasure.

Your parents no doubt taught you to have a routine like brushing your teeth and going to bed at a decent time. Routine and schedules with some spontaneity can be both the positive anchor and also the spice in an elder’s life. These are the things that happened during the life of seniors and remember that they would love to have what they had in health and other areas of life ten years prior. It may not be 100% possible, but they would love things to be as they’ve always been. My suggestion is to try to offer as much of that as possible. Comfort is a big concern and desire by the nearly golden-agers and routine and anchoring affords this.

We’ve always been told to “respect” our elders but what does that really mean? Certainly, we should do all of the things we’ve been taught – show them. That’s it, “show them” with your courteous actions. Find ways to celebrate and demonstrate how they have inspired you. Truly listen to them and don’t talk over them. Take their suggestions and counsel and then show them the results of that counsel; let them know that you just didn’t listen to them but that you heard them and took action on their words. Be genuine when you love them.

Encourage them to be active and find ways to suggest how they can be; at least in a very small way doing whatever they are able to do. You do lose it when you don’t use it. Be aware of events and classes in the community they can take part in.

Financial Security and Independence are related. Sadly, if one hasn’t planned for retirement or has had setbacks in life this may not be achievable for retirees. Caregivers must be aware of how regrets can cause unmentionable pain in the minds of older people. Fortunately, with the technology and affordability of in-home amenities and outside the home opportunities seniors have more choices for less. Caregivers may be called upon or feel the responsibility to offer more to their loved ones so it is refreshing to know that safety monitoring systems are a very affordable “luxury”.

To summarize, our parents, grandparents, and seniors all want life to continue pretty much as it has before; without too much intrusion and “nagging” from us and with the freedom and confidence that maintains dignity and independence. 



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