Author Topic: How to Politely Correct an Elder?  (Read 7702 times)

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Secret

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2013, 09:05:50 PM »
Is it really bad that I never would have thought twice about the statistics you just gave me?  They'd go in one ear and out the other (Unless it was something really interesting for me).  I may think about it later and remember that Denver is no where near that high, so it can't be right.  then I may think I got my feet vs meters wrong or heard wrong.

It may not be such a big deal if there are a lot of people like me out there.

Tea Drinker

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2013, 09:08:16 PM »
I wouldn't worry if the errors are all that sort of order-of-magnitude thing, because lots of people get that kind of thing wrong, whether it's distance or weight or population: at some point a thousand or a million are both just "lots," and they may not have the feel for numbers that tells them that a university can't have graduated that many people, or that 5.5% tax on a $30 purchase couldan't be 19 cents (though I couldn't immediately say what the right answer was). Or your feel for numbers may be misleading you: Wikipedia lists four universities with over 1 million students currently enrolled, and another six with at least half a million. The largest is the Indira Gandhi Open University, with 3,500,000 students. (That's a distance learning institution.) It's partly the difference between university systems, and individual campuses: They list the University System of Ohio and the State University of New York has having over 450,000 students each. That doesn't mean there are that many students on campus in Albany or Buffalo or Stony Brook.

The best I can think of if you're sure she's wrong would be to gently change the subject away from the number, say "yes, and I really like X thing about this resort" or "I don't think I'd like such a large university, I'm glad I went to Small College."
Any advice that requires the use of a time machine may safely be ignored.

Zizi-K

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2013, 09:12:48 PM »
To answer the original question, you politely correct her the same way you might correct a younger person. If, as you say, she is perfectly in her right mind, then you correct her at 90 the same way you corrected her at 60 - nonchalantly, quietly, nonconfrontationally. "Actually, Grandma, I think that the 7 million figure was for the whole country of China, but I agree that is quite a bit either way!" Or, "Is it really 7 million, that sounds so high! Let me check the article...oh yes, here it is, 7 million students in all of China..."

I think what many other posters are reacting to, though, is the notion that a 90 year old woman should care what other people think about her, especially with respect to something so innocuous as getting a figure wrong. Unless she makes her money doing complex calculations, I also can't see what the big deal is. At that age, I think she's earned the right to be (very slightly) eccentric!

LeveeWoman

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2013, 09:17:15 PM »
When I started this thread, I never expected that it would get this big and this heated so soon. 

I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. 

MIL has had some physical health problems lately.  She's been thoroughly checked out and, two weeks ago, we sat in on a consultation with her primary care physician. MIL presented herself well so these statements came out of the blue, as it were. 

Because of the turn this thread has taken, I would ask the Mods to close it down.

I don't see how it's heated at all. I see people disagreeing with your decision to correct someone.

Calistoga

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2013, 09:19:25 PM »
I think your concern is misplaced- I doubt anyone will think she's a fool for making simple mistakes. Chances are, most people won't even notice. If she were telling everyone about how the moon is made of refried beans or something that's glaringly, obviously wrong, it would be one thing.

I don't think anyone is trying to respond with hostility here, it's just that most of us don't see this is as an issue that needs correction. You said yourself, she's 90 years old but still doing wonderfully. My grandmother is only in her late 70's and she swears up and down that she went to high school with my husband. If anyone thinks that someone who makes a simple mistake is a fool...well, that sounds like a personal problem.

I guess the real question is... when your MIL says these things, do YOU think she's a fool?

Lynn2000

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #20 on: June 18, 2013, 09:38:31 PM »
To answer the original question, you politely correct her the same way you might correct a younger person. If, as you say, she is perfectly in her right mind, then you correct her at 90 the same way you corrected her at 60 - nonchalantly, quietly, nonconfrontationally. "Actually, Grandma, I think that the 7 million figure was for the whole country of China, but I agree that is quite a bit either way!" Or, "Is it really 7 million, that sounds so high! Let me check the article...oh yes, here it is, 7 million students in all of China..."

I think what many other posters are reacting to, though, is the notion that a 90 year old woman should care what other people think about her, especially with respect to something so innocuous as getting a figure wrong. Unless she makes her money doing complex calculations, I also can't see what the big deal is. At that age, I think she's earned the right to be (very slightly) eccentric!

POD to this. If one feels the need to make a correction, one could say something like, "Oh, did you say ten thousand, or one thousand? It's certainly quite high, I felt a little woozy when I first got up here!"

But generally I have to agree with the others, that these two particular instances you cite seem so inconsequential to me, that I don't know why one would bother correcting them. In the first place, they actually aren't things that I, personally, would immediately notice were even wrong (probably says something about my own capacity for numbers); and secondly, they aren't things that make the slightest bit of difference in my world, whether they're wrong or right.

If she'd added two extra zeroes to her bank balance and was spending accordingly, or thought someplace 10 miles away was really 1000 miles away and balked at going there for dinner, that would be more problematic. I guess if people I knew thought a 90-year-old, otherwise healthy woman was a "fool" or must have dementia because she got a couple of inconsequential figures wrong, I would find that more telling of the people who'd made the judgment, than of the woman they were judging.
~Lynn2000

bibbety

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #21 on: June 18, 2013, 09:55:23 PM »
To answer this statement:

"I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. "

I think that what people  trying to tell you is that it is probably not polite or gentle to call attention to the idea that she looks like "a fool."

People are very generous with the elderly who may get some facts wrong or repeat themselves.

I'd let it go. It sounds as if you may be struggling with the fact that she is getting older and perhaps slipping a bit. I sympathize with you on that, but don't worry about her public face, especially with her grandchildren. They need to learn that people change with age.

TootsNYC

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #22 on: June 18, 2013, 10:17:34 PM »
First of all, we weren't  piling on her.  The questions about what she said were presented in a quiet way by another family or two over a cup of tea. 

'Grandma, here's what the brochure says about the resort'.

'Please Grandma, look at this article again and tell me what it says'.

MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

This woman is going to die soon (well, OK, not tomorrow, but within 10 years, in all probability). And you all seldom see her. Why are you wasting your precious time with her, time that will never come again, on finding the brochure so that you can find a discreet time later to point out to her an error in a statement that she (and most other people who were in the room) doesn't even remember?

I do not think that people around her are going to assume she is suffering from dementia because she throws out weird-sounding numbers or blathers on, sounding like an expert when she clearly, clearly isn't. Everybody does that. No matter what their age. Hell, *I* do it.

If they're her contemporaries, they're probably not that worried about it. They may not even notice it. And if they're health professionals, they'll have far more sensible things to use as a benchmark.

In the moment, feel free to say, "well, maybe not 10,000 feet, but it sure is up there, isn't it?" Or, "well, maybe 7 million is a rough figure, but that's interesting--one single university graduates a huge percentage of the college students in China?"


That will clue people in that the exact number is probably wrong. But the GIST of it is right, isn't it? Isn't the resort at a noticeably, remarkably high altitude? Higher than many other places?
   And doesn't that one college in China have a large percentage of the students? So you can certainly reinforce the idea that the exact number is probably iffy with the tactic I suggested.

It's great that your MIL is even interested in stuff like that, esp. esoteric stuff like college students in China.

If you correct her, you may make her so self-conscious that she stops sharing stuff with the rest of you or--worse--stops paying attention to stuff like that.

I think there's a pretty unanimous response here.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 08:37:19 AM by TootsNYC »

katycoo

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2013, 01:01:44 AM »
"Oh I read that article.  But I recall it said & million in all of China.  So interesting, hey?"

"I'm sure 10,000 isn't quite right.  I was looking at [something relevant] which said XX so it must be more like 1,200m.  Do you remember where you read that?  I'm intrested to see what it says."

Miss Tickle

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2013, 01:17:20 AM »
Hugs Thipu1.

If it's only a few numbers or something your MIL has read, perhaps she can't see as well as she'd like you to think. As long as her "lapses" are not really serious or life threatening, it's a testament to how well your MIL has thrived for so long.

If you must correct someone, please correct the person who thinks your MIL a fool.

Maude

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #25 on: June 19, 2013, 01:35:57 AM »

.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives

 
[/quote]

You seem very concerned about the people where she lives.
What does it matter WHAT they think?
Your MIL is loved by all the family.
That is more important than a few residents of an assisted living facility.

JoieGirl7

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #26 on: June 19, 2013, 01:39:16 AM »
Maybe the issue is that she cares what other people think.  Are you trying to help her save face for her own sake?
 

TheBardess

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #27 on: June 19, 2013, 07:40:31 AM »
When I started this thread, I never expected that it would get this big and this heated so soon. 

I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. 

MIL has had some physical health problems lately.  She's been thoroughly checked out and, two weeks ago, we sat in on a consultation with her primary care physician. MIL presented herself well so these statements came out of the blue, as it were. 

Because of the turn this thread has taken, I would ask the Mods to close it down.

I really think you are placing way too much importance on these mistakes she made, and vastly overestimating how they will affect people's opinion of her. If I were there and heard your grandmother talking about the height of the resort or the number of college graduates in China, the numbers would probably go in one ear and out the other. Even if I remembered them later and checked to see if they were accurate, or even if I had a feeling at the time that the numbers didn't seem quite right, I certainly would not think your grandmother was a fool. I would think she was a perfectly ordinary human being who occasionally got her numbers mixed up or had a slip of the tongue- something that happens to all of us at one time or another. I might put it down to age, but more likely I would just put it down to her being human and thus occasionally mistaken.

Honestly, you really need to let this go. Seriously, why is it so terribly important that your grandmother be able to correctly identify the number of college graduates in China? What does it matter? These really aren't glaring or important mistakes that are going to have any effect on her or other's lives. If she starts telling people (in all seriousness) that the moon is made of Swiss cheese, or standing on the street corner yelling at passersby that seven million people just graduated from one university in China  then you can worry about her "looking like a fool." But incorrectly listing the height of the resort in passing? So what? Who cares?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 07:42:56 AM by TheBardess »
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bopper

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #28 on: June 19, 2013, 09:11:26 AM »
My GMIL is over 90.  She will regale you with stories of places she has been. Non-family members will be convinced she has been there. Except she has not traveled to those places at all.  There is no point in correcting her.  We will quietly say to the  person if we think it necessary that she really hasn't been to those places.  These people will know that she has memory issues. That is okay, because she does.


Luci

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #29 on: June 19, 2013, 09:18:30 AM »
I want to be corrected. I want to be coddled physically, not mentally.

Admittedly, I'm 20 years younger than she is, but if I am in my right mind (if I ever am), I'm sure I will still want to get the facts straight. My dad did when he was 92.

Politely correct me then as you do now, particularly if there are those around who believe me. In my family, we do remember stuff like was mentioned in the opening post.

I realize this is not what most others are saying.