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«У комунікації приховано набагато більше сенсів, ніж нам здається. Цей Довідник допоможе розкрити нові, додаткові смисли, коли в центрі уваги – людина та її різноманіття. І це стане першим кроком у формуванні нової етики спілкування».

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Олена Зеленська

How to convince an older person to move to a safer location

03.03.2022

The comforting feeling of being in your own home, habits and belongings, memories, and the fear of change. Anxiety, the difficulty of adapting to new surroundings, fear of becoming a burden for their loved ones. Lack of a clear understanding of what the future might hold. These are some of the reasons older people might refuse to leave their hometown, even if it is dangerous to stay.

  1. Try to figure out the main reason that’s holding the person back from moving and try to come up with rational suggestions that might help overcome it.

If they’re worried about something happening to their home while they’re gone, let them know that you can ask your neighbors or family members to keep an eye on it. Or, if you’ve already found a comfortable place for them to stay, tell them about it. Remind them that this is only a temporary measure and that they’ll be able to return home. Let them know that it won’t be difficult to repair their home if something happens to it while they’re gone. 

If they’re afraid to become a burden, inform them about the social services that provide help to refugees and elderly people. Tell them about various organizations that support older people in the region or country where you’re going. Let them know that you’re taking their concerns seriously.

  1. Pay attention to the reasons the person has not to go and what their motivation for staying is. In these circumstances, most people appeal to what they value the most, so pay attention and try to figure out the best way to change their mind.

If, for example, a person values family over everything else, a good way to convince them would be to point out that they need to move in order to stay together with their loved ones. Tell them that that’s the best way for the family to stay together. Let them think this over, then return to the conversation and remind them of their grandchildren. Remind them of all the happy memories they made with their grandchildren and patiently ask them to move to safety for their sake.

If the person still isn’t convinced, let them think it over once more. Ask them if they want to be close to their loved ones and see them in safety. Keep in mind that this isn’t manipulative, as you don’t have any ulterior motives. You’re just reminding your loved one of what they value the most, and are helping them to overcome their fear.

  1. It’s vital to have a detailed plan at the ready. You should be able to describe every step of the plan and explain what’ll happen in any given case. Older people find it especially hard to uproot their life and venture into the unknown. This is why you should make the person feel that they’ll be useful, give them a sense of certainty in the future. Remind them that they won’t be a burden.

Try and come up with specific tasks the person will be able to help out with after the move. They should be similar to what the person is already tasked with at home and what they like doing. These tasks could include household chores, help with the kids or even helping uphold various Ukrainian traditions. Remember what the person used to do at home and try to update these tasks according to your new living conditions.

However, try not to voice these tasks as if you’re giving our chores in exchange for bringing the person along – they might feel like you’re bringing them along just for free childcare or housekeeping. Put an emphasis on how much you’d appreciate the person’s help and the fact that you’ll be near.

This can sound like this: “I’d really like you to be near. This way I’ll be able to focus on my work and feel sure that you’re safe. We’ll also be able to see each other every day, spend our evenings drinking tea and talking. This way I won’t have to check my phone every minute and try and get in touch instead of calmly sleeping and eating. I think we should all move, don’t you think so?”

  1. Let the person decide for themselves. You shouldn’t sound aggressive or as if you’re accusing the person of making you worry about them. Try to be convincing, but don’t pressure the person into agreeing.
  2. Once the person agrees to move, help them go over the necessary things to pack: make sure they take medication (if they need it), all the clothes they’ll need, and other important things. Stay calm, don’t nag, and try to act as thoughtful and gentle as you can.

 It’s a good idea to write down your contact information on a piece of paper and have the person put them in their pocket or in their bag. This is in case the older person gets lost during the trip, sustains an injury or simply gets disoriented due to fear. You can also have them write down their medical history and the medication they might need, so that a stranger may be able to help them if the need arises.

  1. During the trip itself, make sure to regularly ask the person if they’re hungry, thirsty, or need to use the bathroom. Older people often feel uncomfortable voicing their needs or asking for something, as they don’t want to be rude.

Offer to make small stops every 3-4 hours, if possible. Blood circulation gets worse with age, so it is necessary to renew it more often by stretching arms and legs a little. If you can’t make a stop, ask the person to shake their fingers along with you, move your legs and neck. It will help. Older people may also get a feeling of cold in their extremities – this is due to poor blood circulation. Warm a person’s shoes, ask them to wear warmer socks,  or maybe even gloves, or suggest that they rub their hands together.

  1. Talk during the trip. Don’t remind them of the war or talk about the trip itself (unless, of course, there has been some change of plan or you need to go over your route again).

Ask the older person about happy memories from their childhood or adolescence. Reminisce together about the good times you’ve shared. Sing a song you both know.

This will help you keep the person calm, reassure them and lower their stress levels.

* Suggestions from Yulia Pavlova, psychologist and transformation coach, communications and emotional intelligence expert.

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