Page 2 of 2Mary Pipher has several suggestions for building better relationships with your aging parents. 1. Take a lot of time: "If you're in a hurry, older people are so polite they won't want to take your time," she advises. Convey a relaxed attitude toward time, and the older generation will be more likely to open up. 2. Touch: Older generations are neglected when it comes to hugs or pats on the back. "That generation likes getting touched," Pipher says. Holding hands, a gentle arm around the shoulders, goes along way. Not only does it put them at ease and show that you care, but it gives them that much craved human touch that may have all but disappeared from their life. 3. Ask specific questions about the past: "If you just say, `Tell me what you were like when you were young,' they are likely to say a couple of things and clam up." Instead, Pipher advises, ask pointed questions about specific things in their life. What kind of car did your family drive when you were young and they will expound on many details. 4. Bring in old pictures: Like asking specific questions, a picture is worth a thousand words. Imagery sparks memory, and an old picture of when they were younger provides a jumping-off place for hours of discussion. 5. Letters, maps and videos . . . oh, my: An old love letter, a map of a country they traveled, a video of their favorite Bing Crosby/Bob Hope flick, all these are classic conversation starters that provide insight to a time long past.
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