Senior Advocacy: Caring Conversations Across Generations

Senior Advocacy: Caring Conversations Across Generations

For everyone, but especially those of us working in the field of senior advocacy, intergenerational communication is a big concept. Bigger than I thought.

I had my thoughts provoked (love that!) by way of a presentation about Inter-generational Communication that my company arranged  in Raleigh, N.C. Since communication is a crucial part of NAVIGATE NC’s senior advocacy and case management, I was embracing the topic in a large way, thinking this might help me in my work, certainly, and maybe in my personal life.

Tim Moore of Intergenerational Insights was the expert presenting in our series called ‘Crucial Conversations.’ I will generally relish the chance to learn, however that evening a part of me felt a tiny kernel of resistance. I was indeed reacting, but to what? A small part of me was thinking “Great, on top of all the other considerations I have to carry into my job performance — medical knowledge, the ability to quickly assess a situation, the savvy to devise solutions, plus being able to engage providers, balance services and speak up for what’s right for my client — now someone wants me to consider more differences in people?

You see, my job often requires me to engage, sometimes corral, and to bring people on the same page. I guide to facilitate their decisions and move forward down a common path of remedy with some degree of uniformity.

And now you want me to look at even more differences?

It was but a small kernel and so I returned to my belief that there is something to be learned every day and from almost any situation. Here was a talented presenter who was about to share his years of study in human dynamics. Better pay attention. An overriding kernel said there is something good here, better watch.

Tim Moore in his presentation did not disappoint. We studied the various generations, about Matures and Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials. In short order we learned and embraced some of the commonalities each group enjoyed, the influences that shaped a generation and thus their methods of communication.

It turns out that intergenerational communication is quite the interesting study, onemet with shared memory, humor and some intrigue.

I smiled wanly as he outlined the generation before mine. Yep, he’d nailed my parents alright, with their patriotism, their reactions to the well-known influences of the Depression, their amazing work ethic and pride. We chuckled at their expense when frugality was depicted with a the picture of plastic bags, rinsed out and hanging on a clothesline. When the story was told about saving tin foil (or wrapping paper, or help me make a list here), I related. I then felt a twinge as I had to acknowledge my own tendencies along those lines.

senior advocacy, Raleigh NC

I used to tease my father who saved paper, cutting it up to serve as the tiniest grocery lists I’d ever imagined. No envelopes containing bills ever escaped his plan. All were re-used. Turns out my dad was repurposing before repurposing was cool! Ironically, I now find myself doing the same thing…a tribute, I say to myself, a way to honor his way.

Intergenerational communication is interesting study. One met with memory, humor and intrigue. As Tim Moore took us through the Boomer generation, it was no-brainer: I am such a Boomer! Relating heavily to stories and influences of my own generation, I had to acknowledge that these differences were more evident than I’d previously considered. I had noticed differences between my generation and that of my parents, sure. Here were undeniably more relevant considerations –involving communication, something I hold dear. And there are more generations yet to be discussed.

This is big, I thought. I need to know this. I need to know to best assist the generation above mine and communicate effectively with them. And I need to know how to effectively communicate with the adult children who may be my age (Boomer) or of Generation X. With this kind of insight I could improve my senior advocacy work among family members, other providers, or team members within my agency. I could become a better person, Advocate and Case Manager.

Hats off to professionals like Tim Moore who have studied the differences and whose work helps people to communicate more effectively. As Professional Advocates we can harness this. We know that family members may be different or that a doctor-patient relationship contains fundamental differences. We know that lack of information/education (regarding housing options, payor sources, medical situations, legal or financial options) may impede the task at hand. This intergenerational stuff is significant but simply represents another bridge to recognize and get across.

As Senior Advocacy Professionals we often serve as a “quick bridge” and with ready-education. Our own ‘Crucial Conversations’ are frequent and, well, crucial. We have to understand differences so as to build the bridge. We build bridges between families, between a Client and provider, between ourselves and the angry-at-the-world-right-now person or the frightened and vulnerable patient.

We must understand the reasons for communication gaps to so that we can anticipate them. We’ve guided many down similar paths. We have a good grasp of someone’s points of origin and what influences are at play. Because we are aware of what may lie ahead we ask questions.

Six Senior Advocacy Considerations Impacted by Generational Mindsets

Where’s the Client coming from? “I don’t want any home care, I’m fine”. “(I’m changing, what will happen to me?)”, “What now, how do I begin?” What is THIS, and how will it affect my family?”

Where’s the patient coming from? “I barely got the diagnosis (which I don’t quite understand) and BOOM, I’m in treatment with so many people coming in and out. I’m overwhelmed.”

Where’s the doctor coming from? “I wish I had more time to explain things to you. Time for office visits is extremely compressed as is for our rounds. I can’t look at you while I am accessing or keying into the computer. What is your top complaint?”

Is this the hospital, or insurance, talking? “We cannot keep you here (Medicare will not reimburse for your stay any longer) and we will help you to be discharged to rehab or skilled nursing (we have sent an email blast out to find the first available bed).

What’s the end goal for the person who wants you to take action? “We welcome you into Shady Acres, Mrs. Smith (we get a move-in) and you may stay as long as you like (and are a “fit” and can provide payment). If you need more help we have it right here (in the form of ancillary services, add-ons that carry an additional price). Let me tell you about our On Site home health, medication management, and Physical and Occupational Therapy adjuncts (I don’t handle any of that, my job is marketing, but I will see you around!)”

What’s the end goal for each person? What’s the angle (and who’s got one)? What are the pitfalls, and what signals the victories? That is our job: to interpret that communication, understand the various influences and help our Clients make the best and informed decisions.

Returning to intergenerational considerations, how does this Boomer-Advocate refine her communication with a Gen-X physician? How do I foster communication between an aide who may be a Millennial and caring for my Client who is a Mature? How may we be sensitive when working across generations, anticipating their respective influences and building that bridge?

That evening my senior advocacy work and my personal communication took on a new dimension. We were introduced to the differences in generations and learned a few tips about their influences. We learned about thought processes and how best to address concerns. I may hail from the realm of a Boomer, but I now can see you, and more effectively meet you in yours.

I now recognize another layer of influence. Something else to corral, perhaps, but when garnered and included in the forward momentum will effectively benefit my work with Clients and their families.

It would not be fair, nor accurate, to pigeonhole everyone by virtue of the year they were born. We may be off a little, but we may likely be more right than wrong. And wouldn’t it be helpful to have a starting point or orientation and go from there?

It is our hope at NAVIGATE NC that folks will HAVE THE CONVERSATION – about care, planning, change, preparation, and more. If we may be of assistance in senior advocacy and planning for you and your loved ones, the first conversation is complementary. Simply CONNECT WITH US or call us to schedule a time to talk at 919.628.4428.

Top Photo: Public Domain Image Courtesy of


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