Connecting to Past Generations

Sep 23, 2019   |   Chew Khai Xing

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Relating to the elderly can be particularly challenging for youth nowadays due to generation gaps. These gaps are mainly caused by the rapid changes in society, technology, and social dynamics, to which the seniors might not yet be adapted to.

Still, it is important to establish a healthy connection between both generations as it helps the elderly be kept up to date with today’s lingo, and exposes the young generation to natural ageing.

Need extra tips to connect with seniors around you? Well then, read on!



The secret ingredient to conversations with the elderly: A real intention to understand.

If you can sense when a conversation is superficial, then the same can be said for our seniors. Be attentive and sensitive.

Sincerely ask the seniors about their lives, what they think, feel, and have done, and listen attentively to what they have to say through their words and body language. These questions are immediately relevant to them, and by paying attention to what they have to say, our seniors may feel encouraged to speak up and share their thoughts too. It’ll be a bonus if you can even identify their needs and think before you speak to avoid sensitive topics.

What’s to gain from these conversations? You’d be surprised by the insights and wisdom you can tease out from their life experiences.

“See auntie! That’s why we should take breaks once in a while while playing Rummy-O!
Totally not because you keep winning against us!”



If you’re not confident in conversations and small talk, you can keep a mental list of icebreaker questions. These topics can include their work, family, hobbies and interests. Here are some favourites:

  1. What do you like to do during your free time?
  2. How many children/siblings/grandchildren do you have?
  3. What did you work as before?

These topics can encourage the seniors to open up to you, thus paving a way for more meaningful interactions in the future.

Some seniors feel lonely and neglected, and so by showing interest in their lives, they will start showing more interest in yours. You’re on the way to creating a deeper connection.

Balloon sculpted by our elderly Mdm Sim for our volunteers and elderly! What might take us hours to sculpt, she can do it blindfolded!



You might find yourself tongue-tied or wanting to escape a conversation with a senior if you find that you don’t share common interest, or if you perceive the elderly as “naggy” or “long-winded”.

But when you show signs that you wish to be anywhere but here, that impatience can be picked up by the senior, and that hurts feelings, lowers self-esteem, and discourages further interactions.

Let’s be honest; just like how we don’t click with everyone we meet, not every conversation with a senior will be pleasant. It could be because of differences in temperament or viewpoints, but some patience and consistency will go a long way when speaking to an elderly.

Take the conversation slowly, and pick up nuggets of interesting topics that are worth exploring together. And don’t be too quick to dive into millennial language that the elderly can’t understand, or they might end up being impatient with you!

Selfie time! Our awesome volunteers taught Mdm Lee how to take a selfie. What do you think?


Imagine having to grapple with the latest technology every few months. For youths, it may be an exciting advancement, but our elderly might be alien to these technologies and the modern way of life.

Seniors might also find it challenging to adapt to new technologies, possibly due to a natural slight decline in learning ability that comes with age or the lack of desire to adopt a new way of life.

Many youths and seniors then find it hard to connect due to this digital divide.

Our youths have to take the lead in teaching the elderly to adopt and adapt to new technologies such as social media, the Internet, smart phones etc. This effort will be rewarding as not only are the seniors able to embrace the benefits and convenience that new technologies offer, but also better relate to youths and have more things in common, thus creating a deeper relationship between both parties.

This is why our Support Our Pioneer volunteers will soon be embarking on a digital clinic initiative in collaboration with IMDA, where they will be teaching our seniors valuable digital skills to value-add their lives.

HWSOP volunteer Felicitas teaching a senior to navigate her smartphone during one of the home visitations for the programme.

Yet none of the above tips work if we don’t spend sufficient quality time with our seniors.

By taking time to accompany the seniors, lending a listening ear and even rendering emotional support, both youths and the elderly will enjoy a more meaningful connection.

The elderly are a treasure to our society. As youths, we should take the first step in reaching out to the elderly, build bridges of trust, compassion and understanding across the inter-generational gap and connect to each other.