Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Needs to Make Time to Talk to Elderly Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in an apartment building with a lot of different people of various backgrounds. One elderly woman is kind and talkative. Whenever I see her, she wants to have a leisurely conversation about whatever is on her mind. It’s sweet, and I want to be able to spend time with her, but usually I am dashing off to work or to an appointment. I see how frustrating it can be for her when she is ready to settle in for a chat and I have to run. I don’t mean to hurt her feelings. How can I best address this situation? I know I can’t make myself available every time I see her, but there’s got to be something I can do to be more attentive to her. -- Time for Elders

DEAR TIME FOR ELDERS: Always greet your neighbor with a warm smile and hello. When you know you cannot stop, tell her you have to go, but you look forward to speaking with her at another time. Follow up with her, and ask if you can bring her tea or come to visit from time to time. If you do make a date, make sure you show up on time. Be prepared to stay awhile, but also manage expectations by letting her know how long you can stay and that you will return.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics