The 40-70 Rule

Getting adult children to talk to older parents

Reporter staff

Home Instead Senior Care, a company serving East King County, including the cities of Bellevue, Renton, Kirkland, Redmond, Mercer Island, Issaquah and Sammamish, has launched a public education campaign to help adults talk to their senior parents about difficult topics. This campaign, called the “40-70 Rule,” tackles such sensitive issues as driving, finances, independence and even romance.

“The ‘40-70 Rule’ means that if you are 40 or your parents are 70, it’s time to start the conversation about some of these difficult topics,” said Bob Megargel, owner of the local Home Instead Senior Care office.

The campaign is based on research conducted in the United States and Canada by Home Instead Senior Care, which revealed that nearly one-third of adults in the United States have a major communication obstacle with their parents that stems from continuation of the parent-child role. In other words, it can be difficult to get the conversation going because the child is still in a child role rather than an adult role with their aging loved one.

At the center of the 40-70 Rule campaign is a guide of conversation starters for sensitive senior-care subjects, which is available for free from the local Home Instead Senior Care office. The guide was compiled with the assistance of Jake Harwood, Ph.D., national author and communication professor from the University of Arizona, and the former director of that school’s Graduate Program in Gerontology.

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

Good communication is vital to helping families know when it is time to seek additional resources.

“Oftentimes, both adult children and their loved ones can benefit from outside help, such as a professional caregiver,” said Megargel. “But the only way that will happen is if they can talk about it.”

To receive a free copy of “The 40-70 Rule: A Guide to Conversation Starters for Boomers and Their Senior Loved Ones” or to learn more about 40-70 Rule program, visit or call the local Home Instead Senior Care office at (425) 454-9744.

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