Heaton Place resident relations coordinator Carrie O’Neill sits with Richard in Armstrong. (Contributed)

Heaton Place resident relations coordinator Carrie O’Neill sits with Richard in Armstrong. (Contributed)

Connection through questions: Armstrong retirement community staff

Heaton Place resident relations coordinator underscores importance of listening, inquiring

Carrie O’Neill
Special to the Morning Star

In our lives, opportunities arise all the time; opportunities to ask how someone’s day is going, opportunities to apologize, opportunities to say I love you.

There are endless ways to encourage someone or hold space to listen to someone who needs to be heard. Many times these opportunities take courage, they can often feel uncomfortable, but more often than not, it will result in greater understanding, greater connection, belonging, hope and even possibly saving a life.

My role at Heaton Place Retirement Residence has allowed for many opportunities to share space and listen to our seniors. Recently, I was helping a gentleman senior, Richard Hoffman sort through some financial business. As we sat together, I noticed there was something in his eyes and his body language that prompted me to begin asking questions.

One of the most valuable tools I learned in my training as a human service worker is to always be curious.

Curiosity is a gracious gift to both parties – always.

In every conversation, think of questions to ask, not things to say.

I believe there is a reason we have two ears and one mouth, by listening more, curiosity is activated. I put my whole heart and mind into the conversation and each time I am left with a full heart!

Our seniors are very interactive at Heaton, however, my hope is that by reading this story, they may too find some tools to better engage with their friends or even strangers. It was once written that “ you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Strong relationships will grow by having curiosity!

From sitting with Richard and being curious, I learned that as a little boy he was asked by his sister what his big dream was. His reply was “I want to own a ranch!”

With a tear in his eye, and smile on his face, he looked up at me and said, “I did that!”

Stories were shared that day that went even deeper; stories that created a sense of belonging and connection.

Another time, I was driving with my father. We had about a 13-hour drive and I thought what better time than now to ask my dad about his life journey.

So with a cup of coffee in hand, and my phone on record, I began asking my dad questions. I learned a lot that day about my father’s life path, including his journey in the military, the adventures with his career, the fine details of how my mom and he met and overall it gave me a more intimate picture of who my father is.

We never know what good can happen when we respond to the calls within our hearts. The calls of people who need to be heard, the calls of people who need to be affirmed, the calls of people who need to be encouraged, the calls of people who need to be forgiven, the calls of people who need to laugh, and the calls of people who need to be loved.

You will never know unless you ask.

— Carrie O’Neill is the resident relations co-ordinator at Heaton Place in Armstrong. These are the stories of its residents.

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