The Speech Therapy Clinic at Changi General Hospital (CGH), a member of the SingHealth group, shares tips on how to communicate effectively with the elderly. 

Caring for the elderly is often challenging due to their communication difficulties, which are commonly caused by hearing impairment, brain lesions (e.g. stroke and brain tumours) or declining memory, sight or vision. Medical conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease or structural body changes (e.g. trauma to head and neck) also affect their communication capabilities.

Age-related vision impairment and hearing problems may result in difficulties in speaking, understanding, reading and/or writing. For example, hearing problems may make it harder for the elderly to know if someone is talking to them. They may also have difficulty following a conversation. Vision problems can make it difficult to read letters, newspapers and instructions on a medicine bottle.

Communicating with elderly: Two guiding principles to remember

  • Communication is a two-way street
    The speaker and the listener are both responsible for improving the way they communicate with each other. Any conversation is a collaborative effort and it is never just one person's responsibility. Listening to one another is very important.
  • Adjusting to limitations is necessary
    When talking to someone with a hearing problem, for instance, conversing in a quiet room is often more effective. Assistive hearing devices also facilitate communication.

Tips when communicating with the elderly

  1. Simplify the message, easy to understand is key. 

    Instead of using jargon or medical terms, use simple words that are easier to understand when talking to them.
  2. Assure them that they matter.

    Communicate with kindness and involve them in the conversation.
  3. Give information, the way they like it.

    Help them make informed decisions by sharing information in the way they prefer. Drawing or doing a demonstration can be helpful.
  4. Ease into it, not too much too quickly.

    Avoid sharing too much information too quickly. Slow down and allow them to process the details as unfamiliar information can be overwhelming.

Speech therapy at CGH

Old people with communication impairment arising from medical conditions can benefit from speech therapy. At CGH, speech therapists assess and treat patients who are facing difficulties with speech, language, voice and/or swallowing. Under the careful guidance of speech therapists, patients undergo a period of rehabilitation to maximise their communication functions.

For more information on CGH speech therapy services, please email

Ref: O17