Conflicts frequently arise in supporting older adults – whether it is negotiating living space, daily activities, health care, or dealing with home care agencies and insurers.

As a result, supporters of older adults often experience frustration, anxiety, and stress as they deal with these conflicts. Just thinking about these conflicts adds to the burden. Unfortunately, most supporters of older adults are vastly underprepared to handle these conflicts.

There has to be a better way. To effectively resolve these common conflicts and improve communication, we hypothesized that supporters of older adults may benefit from training in Negotiations.

I have the same frus­trating argu­ment with my mom over and over again — we keep going around in circles!

Business schools have trained executives on negotiations for over 50 years. Negotiation is an effective, proven method by which people settle differences through processes by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument. Effective negotiators have the interpersonal skills to maintain a good working relationship with those involved in the negotiations. Extensive research has shown the effectiveness of negotiation training. People trained in negotiation have the ability to persuade others without using manipulations, maintain a positive atmosphere during a difficult negotiation, and resolve conflicts successfully.

Dr. Lee Lindquist is Chief of Geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine/ Northwestern Medicine Geriatrics. Geriatrics is the medical specialty dedicated to providing care to older adults who have unique medical issues and concerns as they age. Professor Jeanne Brett is Professor of Dispute Resolution at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Professor Brett is a renowned leader in negotiations having initiated Kellogg’s MBA courses in negotiations in 1981 and has taught negotiation for over 50 years. With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), our national team of older adult supporters, social workers, researchers, and computer and human-science interactions scientists developed NegotiAge.

I feel more con­fident in deal­ing with con­flict and talking options with seniors. I am not so stressed about deal­ing with conflict.

NegotiAge is an innovative Negotiation and Dispute Resolution training intervention that has been rigorously designed to align with geriatric conflicts. This is the first training program to focus on teaching negotiation skills to supporters of older adults. The concepts learned through NegotiAge can lead to meaningful improvement in communication between older adults, supporters of older adults, and their health care providers. These skills can be extended to a variety of situations and impact much more of life. By nature, everyone is busy and supporters of older adults are often pulled in many directions. Through artificial intelligence and avatar-based negotiation exercises, NegotiAge is innovative in that learning can occur anytime and anywhere.

Ultimately, learning to negotiate through NegotiAge has the potential to resolve geriatric conflicts, while also improving the quality of life for both the older adult and their supporters.