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Campaign To Get Seniors And Families Talking

Media Release
8th May 2008

National Campaign Launched To
Get Seniors And Families Talking

Having to talk to your teenage son or daughter about dating can be awkward but imagine having to have that conversation with your 70 year old mother?

As our population ages, and people live longer, more and more adults are finding themselves struggling to tell their 86-year-old father that perhaps he shouldn’t drive anymore or suggesting to their fearlessly independent mother she get cleaning help.

But a campaign just launched in New Zealand by a nationwide home care company aims to help adult children seeking better communicate with their aging parents about difficult life topics such as driving, dating and independence.

The 40-70 Rule campaign has been launched locally by Home Instead Senior Care after overwhelming support of the programme in America and Canada where the company also operates.

“The ‘40-70 Rule’ means that if you are 40, or your parents are 70, it’s time to start the conversation about difficult topics such as driving, romance, wills and home help,” says Neil Farnworth, managing director of Home Instead Senior Care in Hamilton.

Research conducted by Home Instead’s Canadian and American branches revealed nearly one-third of adults in the USA have a major communication obstacle with their parents that stems from continuation of the parent-child role.

Mr Farnworth says the statistics are mirrored in New Zealand. “It can difficult to get a conversation going because the child is still in a child rather than adult role with their aging loved one. Because of this obstacle, adult children may wait until an emergency or crisis happens before talking to parents.

“Our goal with the ‘40-70’ campaign is to provide practical ways for adult children to talk to their parents now. We’ve seen lack of communication lead to misuse of medications, self-neglect and even accidents.”

A guide outlining the key aspects of the 40-70 Rule has been compiled by Home Instead with the assistance of Jake Harwood, PhD, national author and communication professor from the University of Arizona who is the former director of the school’s Graduate Programme in Gerontology.

Dr Harwood says starting conversations early is particularly important for end-of-life issues such as power of attorney and wills.

“It’s crucial to begin these conversations assuming ‘if’ rather than ‘when.’ Many older adults continue to drive safely as they age so personal circumstances should determine how much discussion needs to occur,” he says.

In general, the Home Instead Senior Care survey found that baby boomers have the most difficulty talking with their parents about independence issues, such as continuing to live in their own home, and that their parent’s desire to remain independent makes it challenging to address such sensitive issues as health (28 percent) and money (21 percent).

The fact that many of these families are still in a parent-child rather than a peer-to-peer role makes the conversations even more difficult.

“It takes two to tango,” Harwood explains. “If an adult child always turns first to the parent in times of trouble, regularly needs money from the parent, or calls the parent every time there’s a crisis in the child’s romantic life, then they can expect the parent to continue acting out the parenting role.

“On the other hand, if the child becomes truly independent and stops acting out these behaviours, then the parent may be more likely to relinquish the parent role,” he says. “So adult children should be aware of the sorts of behaviours they are engaging in, which may cause their parents to act parentally.”

The bottom line says Neil Farnworth, is to keep talking.
“Talking is important in helping seniors adapt to changing life circumstances. It’s also vital in helping families know when it’s time to seek additional support resources. Often both adult children and their loved ones can benefit from outside help, such as a professional caregiver but the only way that happens is if they can talk about it.”

For more information visit or for a free copy of The 40-70 Rule Guide, telephone 07 834 2296, or email


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