By Kent Mulkey

If it’s the isolation that ails us — our move to the suburbs; our reliance on cars; our dwindling circles of friends; our lack of congregation and integration and mutual understanding, of the kind described by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone — then the solution, especially for those tilting into their lonelier elderly years, would seem to be fellowship, activity, and fun.

But far too many seniors miss most if not all these opportunities. If you have followed my articles over time, you may have read about my 94-year-old mother who lives in her house of 62 years.

The other day she called me, after a walk in the neighborhood, bemoaning the fact that most if not all her former neighbors had either died or moved to a retirement home. Neighbors who are still around keep to themselves anyway. “Perhaps it is time for me to move.”

My siblings and I were shocked! However, my money is on her staying home. Like most seniors, she is committed to the status quo.

Lonely, Bored, Isolated

My mother will never admit it, but she is lonely. She is bored. She is isolated. She is afraid that an “incident” will happen, and no one will be there to help her. She is one of the millions of older adults who are in the same situation.

And you are left to try to influence them to move to a senior community, ideally the one where you work.

I have talked with and trained dozens of sales counselors over the years.  One of the biggest areas where they get stuck is knowing what to ask and discuss after asking the prospect what brought them into the community. On the phone, too often I have heard sales counselors say to a prospect they are just “checking in.”

Here is a list of questions you may want to try, to get people talking about themselves and begin to get down to some of the significant issues they are facing.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • How do you imagine your life would be better by moving to a senior community?
  • How are things working for you at home?
  • What do you like about being in your home?
  • What would you be giving up by moving here?
  • What do you enjoy doing with your day?
  • What do you imagine life would be like if you stayed in your home another year or two?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to make this change?
  • What do you like about your current situation?
  • Would you be able to achieve what you want (alignment with values) by staying in your home?
  • How do you think your life would be different if you didn’t have to deal with your health challenges all by yourself?
  • What do your kids say about your current situation?
  • If you were to make this change, what would you have to do to make it happen?
  • How would you like your life to be different from what it is today?
  • You have visited us before. What is different this time?
  • Why do you think your family is concerned about your situation?
  • What was the happiest time in your life?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What is most important to you in your life? (values)
  • When you look back on your life, what will have mattered most to you?

I have asked my mother a few of these questions. She tells me that they have her thinking about her situation and moving.