Texts, emails, Facebook? With seniors and their families, these communication modes have limits. They’re great for conveying simple information like dates and times, and yes and no. However, when we want to learn about the “real person,” and want them to learn more about us, we need to go face to face or at least voice to voice. A simple telephone call or visit can reveal our client’s likes and dislikes, distinct personality and sense of timing.
I learned about face to face or voice to voice contact at a young age. My father was a minister in a small church of between 100 and 150 members. One of his goals was to make 60 or 70 monthly personal visits to families. That number seems staggering, but he did it! He knew the family with the sick grandpa living far away and the one with the teething toddler. He knew about rebellious teens and out-of-work dads. I remember him talking down an alcoholic by phone in the middle of the night, and leaving our house to visit the dying.
Decades later, I still value the idea of voice to voice. Personal contact allows us to see the person, inside and out, if you will. And with seniors especially, that’s very important. I’ve made assumptions about elders by hearing statements from their loved ones, such as “My mom is you know, like any other 85-year-old lady with a walker, grey hair and glasses.” When I actually laid eyes on the woman, I got a completely different picture.
Today I read a newspaper article by Hannah Brencher, author of “Come Matter Here.” In it she talks about a simple prayer she uses to direct her life, one word at a time. It’s “Reduce me to love.” She shares a story of a disheveled homeless man who enters their church, starts playing his harmonica in the foyer, and says to Hannah, “Look beneath the surface. Beneath the surface, we all just want to be seen.”
I think that especially applies to seniors. Beneath the surface, like all of us, they all just want to be seen.