Just about all of us have accompanied a group of performers or led an activity for elders — sometimes in a long-term community and at other times in one part of another of a retirement community. Those of who are the leaders of these events usually practice as a group, ensure that each participant understands his or her task, and pay close attention to the transportation details.
After conversations with my parents and several other elders, I’ve learned about one detail that I overlooked when I accompanied groups. The elders with whom I spoke commented about how much they enjoy these events, but they consistently mention one issue that could improve things — more conversation. They note that once the event is over, most of the participants talk among themselves or immediately get ready to leave. Rarely do they move around the audience and talk to the people who watched the event.
Elders want to have a conversation with their visitors.
So the next time you plan an event for elders, remind the people in your group that their visitor responsibilities are not over just because the performance, activity, or worship service has ended. Remind them that afterward is the time to get acquainted, make personal connections, and ask people about themselves, and the leaders can model the conversation,
Connecting and relating to people may be the most important part of your visit, no matter how hard you have worked on the other event details. We adult leaders should help participants understand this responsibility, perhaps even practicing conversations before the visit, and we need to emphasize the importance of longer conversations.