3 Mistakes Communicating with Elders

3 mistakes to avoid when speaking with ‘elders’

We know we should approach each individual in a unique way, but we can run into trouble when we generalize our communication style with older homeowners.

Several years ago I came across an excellent article in LifeHacker which I will summarize for the purposes of reflection and consideration. Can you improve your communication style? Let’s review the common mistakes first.

#1. We treat them differently because they’re older

We don’t mean to, but sometimes we can unknowingly patronize our potential borrowers with childish phrases and intonation. “For example, we might use “sweetie” or “dear” or talk in a high-pitched voice. Such “elderspeak” is usually taken as an insult. It seems obvious, but you might not even realize you do it”, writes Mihir Patkar. Instead speak in a normal down and avoid dumbing things down using an overly-simplified vocabulary. And whatever you do, don’t shout at them speaking loudly for no reason. Don’t speak to the group if children are present but respect them by addressing them in the first person.

#2. We overlook their challenges

There’s patronizing and then there’s accommodating. If someone is hearing impaired be sure to sit directly in front of them. Though we don’t think about it, much of our verbal communication is reinforced by the movement of our lips and the shape of our mouth.

#3. We forget they have something to offer us

Many, if not most, of my older borrowers, were smarter than me and possessed skills I never acquired. Remember the person sitting in front of you is likely a young mind in an older body. Each year I’m reminded this when I look in the mirror.  People are people with dreams, hopes, heartaches, successes, and failures- just like you.

Without patronizing we can show respect for their lifetime of experience and wisdom. This is a great opportunity to get to know their outlook on life and their personal finances. That insight can help you better determine how a reverse mortgage could fit into their longterm plan for retirement security.

Respect, understanding, and affirmation. Three things that we all want and should be mindful of when interacting with our elders. After all, you’ll be one before you know it.

Read the original Lifehack article here.


Rob Ziebart April 14, 2020 at 4:12 am

Great article, practical and straight to the point!! Thanks!!

Dick Diamond April 14, 2020 at 10:51 am

It is truly an amazing gift you can receive when those who are extremely old share their memories and experiences with you. I once did a reverse a lady who was my oldest client ever at age 98 with her 70 year old son helping out. When she was young, she owned an airport in the NE, and was a pilot and told me about her friendship with Charles Lindbergh. When I asked her when she stopped flying her answer was classic; she said “I quit when they put those newfangled radios in the cockpit.”

Don’t you just love that?

Shannon Hicks April 15, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Fantastic story. Thank you Dick. Good perspective. My clients have blessed me with so much insight and experience during our visits.


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