Bridging the Generational Divide: 9 Tips for Connecting with a Younger Caregiver

Caregiver handing elderly man coffee
They show up at your house dressed in scrubs, take care of you for eight hours and then pack up their nursing bag and leave. You spend a lot of time with your caregiver—but do you really know them? Sometimes the generational divide may leave you feeling like you have nothing to talk about, but once you give conversation a chance, you may be surprised at the connections you build. If you need some inspiration, here are nine ideas to help you connect with a younger caregiver.

Ask other young people for input.

If you have other young(er) people in your life besides your caretaker—say, your children or grandchildren—and you’re close to them, it’s worth asking them what they like to talk about. Many seniors assume that younger people aren’t interested in hearing their wisdom and stories, but you might be surprised to discover that many of them want to hear what you have to say!

Seek out common ground.

Relationships of all types are often forged over shared interests and histories. Think about any common ground you may have with your caretaker. For example, maybe you both lived in the same city at some point in your lives, or you like to follow the same sports, or you read the same genre of books. Figuring out what you have in common will give you a natural topic to start a conversation and keep it going, no matter the age. 

Share your hobby with them.

Alert1 Senior Reading A Book
Talking is great, but it’s not the only way to build a relationship. So if that common ground involves an activity you can do together, all the better! Put on comfortable shoes and go for a walk together, read the same book and discuss it, paint canvases on your porch–the options are nearly endless. Keep the conversation going as you work or enjoy the companionable silence as you work side by side. 

Play games together.

If you don’t have any hobbies in common, all is not lost. Activities such as card games, crosswords, Sudoku and picture puzzles will help keep your brain sharp and are easy to do at home if you have limited mobility and the weather is bad. Many of these games and puzzles are themed, giving you an opportunity to unite your caretaker’s interests and yours. For instance, if they love baseball and you enjoy crosswords, look up a baseball-themed crossword so they can help you with clues. 

Bond over mealtimes.

Eating food together is one of the most fundamental rituals that brings humans together. Whether they’re paid professionals or volunteering loved ones, pretty much all caretakers will make you a meal–maybe every day–giving you frequent opportunities to connect. Ask them about their favorite recipes and family cuisines, and ask them to cook you something they love (as long as your doctor-approved diet allows for it, that is). Even if you need to eat different dishes, you can still come together and talk over a meal as you eat at the same time. 

Swap life stories.

Senior and Caregiver Laughing
Do you know whether or not your caregiver has a family? What about where they grew up? Are they a dog or cat person? Boundaries are of course very important, especially if your caregiver is a paid professional rather than a loved one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other. Ask about their life and show that you are genuinely interested in how they became the person that they are. Don’t forget to share about yourself as well, so it’s not a one-sided conversation. 

Sort through your belongings.

While you may not like the thought of going through your possessions, it’s much better to do it now, while you have the time and good health, than to wait until it becomes pressing. Especially if you’ve lived in the same house for a long time, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of belongings, and if you’re planning to relocate to assisted living at some time in the future, it’s a good idea to go through everything beforehand. Ask your caregivers to help you get the items out so you don’t hurt yourself lifting boxes, and then get sorting. The items will likely jog your memory, leading you to share stories as you declutter your house. 

Learn to use technology.

Nurse Showing Senior A Tablet
It seems like there’s a brand-new device coming out every year, sometimes more often, and it can be hard to learn how to operate everything. Rather than stressing out about understanding the latest technology fad, figure out which types of technology it makes the most sense for you to learn and don’t worry about the rest. For example, if your caregiver prefers to communicate over email or text, then it makes sense for you to figure out how to use that tech. In fact, if you ask nicely, they might even be willing to teach you themselves.

Offer advice (if they ask for it).

You have a lot of accumulated life experience to draw on, which gives you a perspective on life that younger people simply can’t have. However, no one likes unsolicited advice, so try to refrain from going into lecture mode unless your caregiver asks for your perspective. But if they do ask for your opinion, don’t be shy. Share some of your wisdom with them. 

Your caregiver may or may not be significantly younger than you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t forge a connection anyway. Follow these nine tips to discover common ground with your younger caregiver and get to know each other better.

About the Author.

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com. A site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.