Old people are old. This has many social implications. Neurodegenerative diseases are common (although not necessarily inherent in aging) so this can definitely hinder your relationship. Referential time is expansive and so two weeks to them feels like two seconds. The ever-changing environment, with its technological progress and ozone depletion, confuses the elder and degrades their quality of life. As a grandchild, you have an obligation to make them feel less like carcasses destined for the nursing home. You have to call them and talk to them and tell them how much you love them! It might seem like a lot of work but it’s actually really easy. Here are some tips that will help you get started:
1. RELAX YOUR LARYNX
Old people like listening to your voice because it’s young and it distracts them from the universe. Make sure that your larynx is totally neutral so that you don’t push or pull on the muscles- and in turn strain your voice. You have to learn how to keep your larynx relaxed. Otherwise you might sound scratchy or your voice could crack in mid-conversation, and this is no for old people because they have fucked up bodies and they do this shit all the time. You are supposed to take them out of their reality, not steep them in it.
Even if it’s not a genuine smile, when you pull your face up into mimicking happiness, the tone usually translates into the telephone and you can end up enacting positive feelings. Don’t overdo it though. Geriatrics have been around for a long time so they can smell your bullshit from a mile away. High-pitched enthusiasm is not only annoying, it is insulting too. Just be cool and don’t make the whole task seem like a chore, you garbageface.
3. ASK THEM WHAT THEY DID TODAY
This simple question is likely to send them down a cascade of endless information retrieval. For seniors, being able to recall information is an exciting challenge. Not only will they actually think about the question and answer it honestly, if they have no sense humor, they will actually GET LOST in the memory of their own behaviours. If during their response they realize that they’ve mistaken the sequence of events, they will get so derailed, trying to back-track and figure out something so menial, they might not even continue. Sometimes this just turns into bouts of silence and their thoughts trail off and it turns into something completely different! Regardless of the outcome, generally this simple question can take up to a good 2-20 minutes.
4. LOOK UP SOME HEALTH-RELATED NEWS
All old people care about health. Even if they’re broken alcoholics with nothing to lose or gain, saying something interesting about the human body will force them into thinking critically for a second because they’ll probably want to challenge what you because you’re young. For example, you could mention something about immunotherapy, which is all the range in cancer research right now. They’ll usually have something interesting to add in response considering going to the doctor takes up 50% of their time, at least. Old people generally feel opinionated about their knowledge of having a body and maintaining it.
5. GIVE THEM A HARD TIME
No body likes a nagger, but everybody likes a joker. Listen for opportunities to insert a vaguely inappropriate comment about hygiene, laziness, sexuality, or cuisine. Whatever it is- don’t make the death joke! Let them come up with the death jokes and then you can riff off it if it seems right. Otherwise you will sound like a demonic asshole. You’re aiming for a good mix of chummy neighbor and little brother. Remember- your grandparent’s friends and siblings are all dead! Joking around like this will surprise them into recalibrating their perception, which is always a good thing.
6. SIGH BEFORE YOU SAY GOODBYE
In order to prepare a senior for the abrupt termination of dialogue, casually sigh instead of saying goodbye. Wait for them to catch the hint (they usually do, subconsciously,) or allow the diminuendo to play out. This will get them ready for the void of silence that will occupy their lives after you hang up the phone.Remember, you’re the most important thing that’s ever happened to them!
If you’re lucky enough to physically SEE your grandparents and interact with them, make sure you notice how great they are and let them know about it. Always, always, always, shed them in the generosity of your love. Even if you’re dealing with an angry, depressive dementia-type case, a sign of affection is never too bold to try!