Helping My Parents Age in Place: “The Talk”

What if I told you that 1 in 3 older adults (65+ years old) have difficulty accessing areas in their home? These areas could include the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and doorways. But, what if you have two parents over the age of 65? The likelihood that one of them will lose accessibility to a part of their home just increased. That’s a scary thought!

But, how do you begin to have a conversation with your parents regarding aging in place or modifying their home to improve their safety? This is where I found myself with my parents.

Hi, my name is Angela and I have two parents who are part of the Baby Boomers population. My dad recently joined my mom in retirement and they are both anxious to remodel their 1980’s home. And this is the beginning of a series of how I, an Occupational Therapist, plan to ensure that my parent’s age in place safely.

A little information about my parents David and Judy. They have been married for nearly 40 years. Both are free of physical limitations and are in good health. They own a ranch-style home that is about 3,700 square foot with 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bath. They reside in sunny Florida. I know that my parents are going to want their home to be functional, aesthetically pleasing, and cost efficient! I sure have my work cut out for me.

This article marks the beginning of “HELPING MY PARENTS AGE IN PLACE” series.

I knew I needed to have “THE TALK” with my parents. I recognized that they were getting older. Age is inevitable, it catches up with all of us. But this is a delicate conversation, not to be taken lightly. Knowing that downsizing was not something my parents wanted to do, I decided to pull some relevant material that I have accumulated over the years to help me sell the idea of home modification to my parents. And, I think this information will be useful for you too!

Words can be powerful. And, the choice of words can make a difficult conversation less stressful and influence decisions. So let’s “TALK”:

Key concepts for a successful conversation:

  • Be positive: Smile, choose a sunny room
  • Be uplifting: Speak in a higher octave, uncross your arms and legs
  • Avoid negatives: Refrain from saying “you can’t” or “you don’t”
  • Be open-minded: Put yourself in their shoes
  • Listen: “I heard you say…”
  • Patience: pause for 3-5 seconds after they finish a sentence
  • Avoid taking sides
  • Highlight that the home ENVIRONMENT does not fit their needs

Selling them on the idea:

  •  “What do you know about…”
  • “How would you feel if you couldn’t access…”
  • “Just imagine if…”
  • “More people are making modifications to their homes nowadays…”
  • “How open-minded would you be if…”

Closing the conversation with an open-ended statement:

  • “Before you make up your mind, can you agree that you’ll consider…”
  • “When would be a good time to discuss this later…”
  • “Do you think you could benefit from…”
  • “Can you do me a favor…”
  • “Can we try something small or inexpensive like…”

When it came to the “TALK” with my parents, it was not a one and done conversation. It took months, and the fact that we live in different states might have impacted that. The best advice I can give you is to be patient, be methodical with your delivery, and be open to compromise.

Influential words to throw in:

  • Improve
  • Protect
  • Bonus
  • Upgrade
  • Create
  • Functional
  • Accessible
  • Health
  • Safety

I hope you found this information to be useful. I look forward to sharing my story in hopes that it can help one of you.

References

Jones, Phil M. (2017). Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact. Canada: Group West, a division of Ingram.

Lee, Keevan (2 July, 2014). The Big List of Power Words: 189 Phrases That Influence, Persuade, and Convert. https://www.business2community.com/brandviews/buffer/big-list-power-words-189-phrases-influence-persuade-convert-0933163

Norrie, David (2016). Socially Speaking: Mastering the Art of Self Expression. https://sociallyspeaking.com/

United States Censes Bureau (21 June, 2017). Aging-Accessible Homes. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2017/comm/again-accessible-homes.html

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