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20 questions to ask your parents, grandparents and older loved ones about their lives



Community Psychiatry’s Dr. Magavi was featured at discussing tips for building bonds across generations.


One of the benefits of aging is acquiring a wealth of wisdom and experience. But all too often older loved ones’ insights and stories go unshared as family or professional caregivers as well as grandchildren are unsure how to bridge the generation gap.

“When in the presence of an aging loved one, it might seem daunting to connect with them or at least find something in common,” says Amy Fuchs, licensed clinical social worker and founder of The Elder Expert, in Saddle River, New Jersey. “One way to counteract that is to ask your aging loved one open-ended questions about their life. In many ways, you might find their openness enlightening and insightful. Perhaps you’ll even recognize that you have more in common than you realize.”

Asking questions that encourage older adults to talk about their lives can help forge a new connection or strengthen an existing bond. At the same time, it may help them feel valued or better understood.

Jay Newton-Small, founder of MemoryWell, a Washington D.C.-based company that writes seniors’ life stories, recalls that moving her dad into long-term care was one of the hardest days of her life. In an effort to help caregivers really get to know her father, Newton-Small wrote down his story and shared it. “His caregivers loved it because now they could understand my father so much better and soothe him in tense moments by recalling for him family names or poignant details about his life,” she explained.

If you’re ready to learn more about the older adult in your life, the following are 20 questions to ask your grandparents and seniors to spark an engaging conversation that’s beneficial for all.

Tell me about your childhood

1. Where did you grow up? 

“This helps give grandchildren and caregivers context as to where the senior came from,” says Fuchs. “It can also be a beginning to a longer conversation as to how the senior ended up in their present location.”

2. Please tell me about your parents/siblings? 

This gives the senior an opportunity to reminisce about their childhood, perhaps even offer up some happy memories from their youth, says Fuchs.

3. What is your favorite childhood memory?

“This helps with bonding and building a connection,” explains Dr. Leela R. Magavi, regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, California’s largest outpatient mental health organization.


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