Silence is not always golden

Speaking activates the brain and keeps it alive
"When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie. Sometimes we need to deal with something and we don’t. That hurtful memory from our past that we never addressed? I silenced my pain by ignoring it and hoping it would go away." [Representational Image]
"When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie. Sometimes we need to deal with something and we don’t. That hurtful memory from our past that we never addressed? I silenced my pain by ignoring it and hoping it would go away." [Representational Image]Wikimedia Commons/ Hiwa perdawood

The proverbial saying “silence is golden” suggests that saying nothing is laudable. In fact, many a great have praised silence and its virtues. But silence is only golden until it’s not.

While creating silence can be a good thing, there are times when it can be harmful. Sometimes we choose to be silent out of fear or anger. Fear and anger can be powerful motivators with devastating effects. Sometimes we need to say something and we don’t.

That time I could have spoken up in defence of justice or life for those who need an advocate? I silenced a voice in my head that was longing to speak up because I was afraid of what people would think of me. That could have been a moment the Holy Spirit wanted to use me to reach someone’s heart.

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie. Sometimes we need to deal with something and we don’t. That hurtful memory from our past that we never addressed? I silenced my pain by ignoring it and hoping it would go away. My instinct to bury or sweep it under a rug only delays and magnifies the inevitable pain. As Fr. Richard Rohr says: “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

Sometimes we need to hear something from God and we don’t listen. Those times in our day when we turn to our phone or a glass of wine to escape from the stress of the day? We silence the call from God to place all our worries on him because He cares fo us by being lazy and zoning out. Those are missed opportunities to turn to God and allow His voice to penetrate our heart and mind with truth.

It’s also important to remember that we are not big enough to hinder God’s plans. He writes straight with crooked lines all the time. So, if you’re like us and catch us silencing something that we shouldn’t, it’s never too late to open up and let God back in. To begin, we have to start by listening to the right voices. Do you recognize the God’s voice in your life? His is the one that speaks hope, life, and direction into our lives.

For all its virtues and even benefits and occasional misses, silence is not always golden, at least not for the elderly and the aging. Doctors say that retirees (senior citizens) should talk more because there is currently no way to prevent memory loss.

The only way is to talk more. According to them there are at least three benefits to talking more to senior citizens. First: Speaking activates the brain and keeps the brain active, because language and thought communicate with each other, especially when speaking quickly, which naturally results in faster thinking reflection and also enhances memory. Senior citizens who do not speak, are more likely to lose memory.

Second: Speaking relieves a lot of stress, avoids mental illness and reduces stress. We often say nothing, but we bury it in our hearts and suffocate ourselves. It’s true! So! It would be nice to give seniors a chance to talk more.

Third: Speaking can exercise the active facial muscles and at the same time, exercise the throat & also increase the capacity of the lungs, at the same time, it reduces the risk of eyes and ears deterioration and reduces latent risks such as dizziness & deafness. In short, for retirees, that is, senior citizens the only way to prevent Alzheimer’s is to talk as much as possible and communicate actively with people.

There is no other treatment for it. So, let’s talk more and encourage other seniors to talk more with relatives and friends. This could be helpful and healthy; due to the potential impact on the life of elderly citizens.

It is, however, not always easy to talk to the elderly people inasmuch as it could seem intimidating, even if you’re normally a chatty person. However, with a little patience, practice and preparation, one can talk to older people about almost anything.

The key to having a good conversation with an older person – or anyone else – is to keep in mind that they’re just a person like you. You can have a great conversation with an elderly person by finding interesting things to talk about, using effective communication techniques, and being sensitive to any communication issues they may have. Here ate some tips that normally work.

Greet the person: If you already know the person, let them know you’re glad to see them by saying hello with a smile. Give them a hug if it’s appropriate. If you do not know the person, introduce yourself in a friendly tone of voice and offer a handshake.

Ask questions: If you don’t know what to talk about, ask the person an open-ended question. Elderly people usually like to share their interesting stories and memories with others. If the person is a family member, you could ask them about events in your family history or about other family members you never had the opportunity to know. If the person is a stranger, you could ask them about their family or what their life was like when they were your age.

Make small talk: Not every discussion you have with an elderly person needs to be in-depth. Older people enjoy making polite small talk, too. You might use any previous knowledge you have about them or information in your surroundings to make small talk.  For instance, you might say to your neighbor, “I haven’t seen your grandchildren in a while. When’s the last time they visited?” Or, you might say, “What sort of books have you read lately, Mr. Razdan?”

Bring interesting props: If you know ahead of time that you’ll be visiting an elderly person, consider bringing something to do or talk about. A few ideas include a family photo album, if you are visiting a family member, music from when the older person was young, or a homemade treat that you can enjoy together.

Ask for advice: If you’re in a sticky situation or you’re having trouble making a big decision, consider talking about it with an older person. Elderly people have collected a lot of life experience, and most of them are happy to share their hard-earned wisdom with others. They will probably be flattered that you asked them, too. You could say something like, “Uncle Joe, I’m having a hard time choosing between two jobs. Which do you think is more important, making a lot of money or enjoying your work?”

Find a good environment to talk. Talk somewhere quiet and calm, where neither you nor the other person will get distracted or overwhelmed. Turn off any radios or televisions in the background so you can hear each other. Sit somewhere the older person can see your face clearly, so they can read your lips if they need to.

 Speak clearly: Enunciate your words distinctly, speak loudly enough to be easily heard, and don’t talk too fast. Don’t shout at the person, though, unless they ask you to speak up more. If the elderly person has trouble following what you’re saying, you may need to slow down or use shorter sentences. This doesn’t mean you should talk down to the older person, though.

Provide choices: If you’re offering the older person something or trying to find out what they want to do, give them two or three choices. This will give them a sense of control over the situation without overwhelming them with too many options. For instance, don’t just say, “Where would you like to go today?” Instead, say, “Would you rather go to the park or a coffee shop?”

Make eye contact. Meet the older person’s eyes when they’re talking to you, even if you are having a hard time understanding them. Making eye contact shows the person that you’re paying attention to them and care about what they’re saying.

Allow the person time to think: During your conversation, the elderly person may need to pause to find the right word, recover their train of thought, or reminisce about something. Wait patiently for them to finish talking. Don’t try to complete their sentence for them or find the word they’re looking for unless they ask you to. 

Let the person know when you are leaving: If the elderly person has dementia or gets confused easily, make sure they understand when you are leaving. Say goodbye to them and tell them when they can expect to see you again. Giving them a hug or a handshake is another good way to signal the end of the conversation.

 Be sensitive to communication problems. Communication often becomes more difficult with age. These difficulties may result from age-related conditions such as hearing and vision loss, physical disabilities, or neurological disorders such as dementia or stroke. Notice whether the person you’re talking to is hard of hearing, has memory problems, or otherwise has trouble communicating. Adjust your own communication style so they can participate in the conversation more easily. For instance, if the person is having a hard time hearing you, move closer to them and speak more loudly. If the person seems to get confused easily, use shorter sentences and be patient as you get your point across. If they have memory loss, avoid asking too many questions at once. Also, avoid “why” questions, which may frustrate them. If you can, try to find out ahead of time about any communication issues the person may have before you start conversing with them.

Most importantly, avoid using “elder speak”. Do not use baby talk, a singsong voice, or inappropriately familiar terms of endearment when you talk to an elderly person. Talk to them like you would any other adult. If they show no signs of confusion, there’s no need to simplify your vocabulary or over-explain things to them. Many older people feel insulted when others talk to them as if they are children, even if those people don’t mean any harm.

Listen carefully as the person talks. Give the elderly person your full attention, even if they ramble. Make sure you’re understanding them by asking questions related to what they are saying. Don’t look around the room or check your watch while the other person is talking, since that will make you seem bored. for instance, if the person mentions living in another country, you could ask them to tell you more about that part of their life.

Always remember that older people are just people like you. Elderly people were once your age, and they’ve experienced the same feelings and many of the same life events as you. Treat the person with the same respect and courtesy you would expect from others, and look for common ground that will help you connect with each other. Think about how you want people to talk to you someday when you are elderly, and use that as a guideline for yourself.

So, let’s talk more and encourage other seniors to talk more with relatives and friends. It would surely be helpful and healthy; and make profound impact on the lives of elderly citizenry.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not refl ect the views of GK.

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