A Trip Down Memory Lane … and a Reality Check

ageing education nursing professional development psychology Sep 27, 2022

I am a huge fan of ongoing learning and professional development. Although I now have valuable experience in aged care and have completed my doctorate, I don’t see myself as being an expert who knows it all. Like many registered psychologists in Australia, I keep an up-to-date learning plan to meet a set number of hours each year for professional development. But it is my love of learning and passion to help elders and those who care for them that drives me to continually seek opportunities to enhance my knowledge.

Every day I learn so much and the feedback I get from participants from my workshops and the elders I work with is invaluable. Recently, my learning journey took me on a trip down memory lane, to the place where it all began. It was here that I was first given time to learn from elders, while the staff patiently explained what was causing them stress, what kept them awake at night and what were their hopes and aspirations.

This organisation has always held a special place in my heart. When I first visited there, over a decade ago, I knew a little about aged care services, but not enough if I was tested on the knowledge. I had no idea what an aged care funding instrument (ACFI) was, or why some people were in a retirement village, while others were in hostels, or how those with declining health qualified for high care. I did not know what types of services were available to those in high care, or about the restrictions at the time around getting psychologists to treat elders in residential care.

I interviewed a lot of carers, nurses and mangers and learned a lot very fast. Within two years I was employing other psychologists to help me deliver services to this organisation and we were applying for grants, received two awards for innovation and I was accepted to complete a PhD at a nearby university. When I wrote my first book, Beyond the Reluctant Move, a lot of the stories were based on the relatives and elders themselves who I met during this period. Several wrote to me thanking me for sharing their experience. At the time I felt scared to ask for an interview, but I am forever grateful for their input and feedback.

On my recent visit, I gave a presentation to a group of retirement village residents about a grant my organisation received to support them during redevelopment. These elders will need to move out from their units permanently, as extensive redevelopment of the site takes place. My co-presenter was unable to attend in person, due to flight disruptions and delays. I had a misunderstanding with the retirement village about the presentation time – I had 10.30 in my calendar but it was in fact 10 am. My co-presenter rushed home from the airport to get online for the presentation but we had technical issues. Once I finally started to present, with my co-presenter on the loud speaker on my phone, I rushed through my slides and was out of breath. Needless to say, the feedback afterwards was mixed. Some reported it was helpful, while others stated they needed more clarification and information.

‘You spoke to fast.’

‘I couldn’t see your lips as you were turned to the screen.’

Lessons learned

Even if you are experienced in something, you still need to practise what you preach. Your presence and non-verbal language accounts for 93% of communication. When communicating with elders it is important to demonstrate patience, be calm and check in every few minutes to see if they understood what you are saying.

Group presentations and interactions provide limited opportunities to gain participant feedback, so take the time to check in individually with participants to ask if they have any questions or if they need further clarification. You may know a lot about the topic, but always consider your audience and how they will perceive it.

After my recent reality check, I thought I’d share my 5 top tips for presenting effectively to elders:

  1. Be cool, calm and collected
  2. Do not overcrowd your slides
  3. Check in with your audience
  4. Provide an opportunity for questions
  5. Admit to your own mistakes.

In a nutshell …


  1. Be cool, calm and collected

No matter what happened before you arrived at your meeting, take a moment before you speak with elders to compose yourself, catch your breath and forget what troubles you had before. We communicate so much with our body language and communicating presence and calmness is so important.

  1. Do not overcrowd your slides

You may know a lot about the topic, but think about your audience. How will they respond to crowded slides? Will it impact how much information they absorb? Keeping it neat and brief will help them encode the information. The same goes for handouts – always use at least size 16 font for easy reading.

  1. Check in with your audience

Regularly check in with your audience by asking questions, even asking them to paraphrase what you said. If they did not hear information correctly in the first place, chances are they will not be able to recall it. If it is important information it is even more crucial that they know what you spoke about. Perhaps leave some written information, copies of your slides or provide an opportunity to go through the information 1:1 at a later stage.

  1. Provide an opportunity for questions

Some people may be shy to ask questions, in fear that they will be judged for their sensory impairment or memory. It is important to provide opportunities to check in with your audience and let them ask you a question either in a group or privately.

  1. Admit to your own mistakes

No-one is perfect and being open to feedback can help you through your own learning journey. As soon as I realised I was rushing through the presentation due to all the initial hiccups. I slowed right down, and spent more time talking with my participants after the presentation than the actual presentation itself. This helped them connect better with me and the materials. My co-presenter was also able to check in individually with few elders who requested this type of support after their in-person discussion with me. Admitting our mistakes makes us more human and can go a long way in improving our relationship with others.


Writing my second book, Unwelcome Changes in Late Life, has helped me further understand and uncover how we support older adults across a range of settings by adapting our communication. Be the first to find out when the book is published right here.


After a quick workshop? Sign up to Grief and Loss in Late Life 2 hr industry endorsed CPD activity. Complete at own pace.

Yes, Let's Do It


 Beyond Unwelcome Change in Late Life: Practical Strategies to Boost Social, Emotional and Physical Engagement

Be the first to find out when you can pre-order your copy of Beyond Unwelcome Change in Late Life and uncover endless ideas of how you can support and nourish mental wellbeing in the elders in your life every day.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.