Many aging adults are facing a time of changes, choices, and challenges. They must navigate the shift from working life to an active retirement. They may face new diagnoses, health issues, or mobility challenges. Their social lives are shifting, and their relationship with their children may be going through a major transformation. They’re the same people they always were, but they’re facing new circumstances, and have to develop new strategies that allow them to thrive.

As a caregiver, loved one, or friend, you have to be able to communicate with your aging loved one about these new situations that impact their health, finances, and personal lives. Because these are often tense conversations, it helps to understand how you and your loved one prefer to communicate. When you understand how best to speak to one another, you can work together to make good decisions, adjust to changes, and rise to the challenges and opportunities of aging in today’s world.

Understanding and Assigning Different Communication Types

At Institute on Aging, we want to give you and your aging loved ones the tools you need to communicate effectively and with compassion about the issues that surround the aging process. Our communication test uses Kirk Bridgman’s Communication Style Preference Model (CSPM) to sort you and your loved ones by communication style. The titles of Assertor, Contemplator, Demonstrator, and Narrator describe how people interact with each other, solve problems, and deal with stress. To help you and your loved one determine your dominant communication styles, we’ve adapted the Christopher Newport University Communication Style Quiz. This quiz is not intended to serve as a psychological or standardized assessment—the recommendations here are only to serve as a guideline for communicating with others.

When you understand how you and your loved ones prefer to communicate, you will have more productive, more loving conversations and be able to reach decisions with less conflict.

We’ve also provided hints on how to communicate about common aging-related issues with each personality type. Should you deal in generalities or specifics? Do you need to get to the point, or take time to share feelings? What about health, financial, or personal concerns? The quiz, and accompanying resources, can help you plan for difficult conversations and discussions.

Answer These Questions to Find
Your Loved One’s Communication Type

At a large social gathering, your loved one is most likely to:

When they first arrive at a meeting or event they are usually:

Of these four personality traits, you consider their strongest to be:

The statement that most closely describes your loved one is:

Which would appeal to your loved one the most?

New and non-routine interaction with others:

When working with others, what is most important to your loved one?

Which description most fits your loved one?

Most of the time, when working, your loved one prefers:

Which would your loved one see as more admirable?

In terms of comedy, your loved one most closely identifies with people who can:

If a conflict arises between your loved one and a friend, their first reaction is to:

Answer These Questions to Find
Your Communication Type

At a large social gathering, you are most likely to:

When you first arrive at a meeting or event you are usually:

Of these four personality traits, you consider your strongest to be:

The statement that most closely describes you is:

Which would appeal to you the most?

New and non-routine interaction with others:

When working with others, what is most important to you?

Which description most fits you?

Most of the time, when working, you prefer:

Which would you see as more admirable?

In terms of comedy, you most closely identify with people who can:

If a conflict arises between you and a friend, your first reaction is to: