7 Tips for Conversations with Hesitant Senior Parents

smiling senior woman having conversation with laughing woman

Change is hard for everyone, and it can be frustrating to watch a loved one hesitate over a decision that seems logical to you. However, it’s important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how the change feels from their viewpoint. 

Change is uncomfortable and uncertainty can be hard to handle. Plus, a misalignment of perspectives can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to help your loved one understand that it may be the right time for senior living. 

Let’s explore how to navigate your loved one’s hesitation in a supportive way instead of a damaging and pushy one.

Why Is My Loved One Resistant to Senior Living?

Let’s consider the view of senior living communities your loved one probably grew up with. In the mid-1900s, senior facilities were clinical, hospital-like environments where individuals were treated like patients. In the years since, senior living communities have transformed into vibrant, active places where residents can thrive thanks to personalized care and plenty of social opportunities—and they have the freedom and support to live their best life. 

Unfortunately, popular media hasn’t evolved to keep up with reality. Instead, movies and TV shows exacerbate outdated negative stereotypes by playing up the idea of sad senior residents in an unpleasant environment for dramatic purposes. Perhaps even more damaging, in this stereotype, the resident is “put into” the community by their family members and then forgotten about, with no visits from people they care about. 

This powerful negative stereotype evokes painful feelings. As untrue and outdated as these ideas are, they could be behind your loved one’s resistance to senior living. 

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Seven Tips for Conversations with Stubborn Senior Parents

Let’s explore several strategies you can use for handling stubborn senior parents who are resistant to discussing senior living communities. 

1. Be Patient

You won’t reach an agreement in one day. In fact, you may need multiple discussions over a period of time with your loved one. This is because too much information and multiple attempts to engage in a conversation—what your loved one may see as pestering—can be triggering and evoke feelings that they’re losing autonomy and control of their life. If your loved one has an underlying condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this can be especially overwhelming because they may find it difficult to take in too much information at once.

2. Be Sensitive

Think of the negative senior living stereotype we discussed before, the one your senior loved one has grown up with. Be sensitive to this belief they may have, even if it’s not reflective of today’s reality, and try to understand where they’re coming from when talking to them about senior living. 

When it comes to discussing reasons for the move into a senior living community, often related to your loved one’s health or well-being, be deliberate and thoughtful in your word choice. Using “I” statements can help your parents feel like they aren’t being judged or criticized. This type of statement places responsibility on the speaker, whereas “you” statements may emphasize blame. For example, telling your loved one, “You’re not eating enough, and it’s unhealthy” can come across as judgmental. Rephrasing this idea as, “I’m feeling worried about you because it seems like you are losing weight and may not be eating enough” will show concern. 

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3. Stay Calm

Your loved one is probably aware of the health challenges they’re facing, now or in the future. They may feel safer not talking about these changes rather than admitting the reality that even more significant changes are ahead. 

Becoming upset with them for refusing to discuss this topic can be damaging to the relationship and won’t help you and your loved one arrive at a solution. Staying calm and talking to them with love will help reassure them that they won’t face these upcoming changes alone.

4. Pay Attention to Timing

Pay attention to how you and your loved one are feeling to ensure you’re having a productive conversation. For example, if you or your loved one are feeling stressed, sad, tired, or even hungry, the conversation can go awry and add to negative feelings. For a productive conversation, make sure you’re both feeling relaxed and in a neutral or good mood.

5. Spend More Time with Your Loved One

If you’re only spending time with your loved one when you want to have a conversation about the move to a senior living community, it’s reinforcing negative ideas about senior living in their mind. 

Get in plenty of quality time with your loved one when you’re not talking about senior living at all. This quality time will make them feel you’re prioritizing them and your relationship rather than only squeezing in a few minutes here and there to discuss the idea of a senior living community. This may help your discussions about a potential senior living move go more smoothly.

6. Get Your Loved One Involved

Instead of telling your loved one what to do and talking at them, work with them. Ask them questions, do research on senior living communities together, and come up with solutions together

Making them part of the process gives them ownership in the upcoming choices and changes instead of creating a situation where the changes are something that happens to them. The goal of this strategy is to support your loved one as well as maintain their trust.

7. Focus on the Benefits

When you’re handling stubborn senior parents, remember that they may not see the benefits of senior living—they may only see the changes. When discussing senior living communities with your loved one, focus on the benefits such as socialization opportunities, dining perks, on-site amenities, and more.


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The Benefits of Senior Living 

Senior living communities offer plenty of benefits that many people don’t know about. In fact, senior living perks such as plentiful social opportunities, good food, and fun activities could put some of your loved one’s concerns about senior living to rest.

To guide your discussions about senior living, here are just some of the benefits of a senior living community:

Convenient Social Opportunities

Senior living communities are designed for socialization. They offer a feeling of belonging, with friends and acquaintances just a step outside each resident’s front door and staff members on hand to organize opportunities for socialization every day.

Amenities That Increase Daily Quality of Life

There are several amenities in senior living communities that support seniors on a daily basis and empower them to live life to its fullest. Your loved one can participate in hobbies they enjoy and learn new skills during organized activities and classes while not having to worry about cooking, cleaning, and other chores that are handled by staff.

Personal Apartments

Your loved one will have an apartment equipped with everything they need for their personal well-being, often including a kitchen, living room, and other spaces for spending time with family and friends. Talk to nearby senior living communities to understand available floor plan options, and bring this information into the conversation with your loved one.

Delicious, Nutritious Food

Food is at the heart of a fulfilling life. Healthy food supports the body, but it should also be something to fully enjoy. High-quality senior living communities offer a wide variety of meal options for different diets, including customizable choices for health concerns, seasonal fare, and familiar favorites.

Thoughtful, Personalized Care

At the right senior living community, your loved one will receive the exact amount of care they need and no more, unless they ask or require it.

Pet-Friendly Policies

Pets are an important part of the family, and they provide many health benefits such as an improved mood in addition to companionship. Many of today’s senior living communities aren’t just tolerant of pets—they welcome them! Often, they even provide walking trails around the community to help residents and their dogs get exercise.

Be Prepared for Conversations About Senior Living

Now that you know some of the top effective strategies for handling stubborn senior parents who are resistant to senior living, find out what other information you need. Explore our guide Having the Conversation: Talking to a Parent About Senior Living today.Having the Conversation Guide Horizontal CTA

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