The Art of Debating: Advantages to setting up a debating program in your retirement community

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”

Joseph Joubert (French Essayist and moralist, 1754-1824)


Recently, a group of seniors participated in the Hale & Fun debating program “The art of debating”.

The accumulation of all of their hard work was a debate between residents of one of our clients and the University of Sydney Debating Union.

Overall, it was great fun and everyone was very eager for the next round.


 This program was such a success that we would love to see it expanded to all of our clients – not just because it is a great opportunity to bring both the young and the old together but also because debating is has a huge number of advantages for seniors. In this article we will discuss a few of them.

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Advantages of Debate for Senior Citizens


Debating is a time-honored tradition in many democratic cultures.  From the ancient Greeks to today’s presidential debates, debating exists as a way to express one’s opinions coherently, logically, and with great gusto.  This particular form of speech continues to capture popular interest not only because it’s informative, but also because it’s entertaining.

Debating is so much more than simply stating one’s position.  A good debater learns to use a variety of rhetorical techniques as well as body language, tone, and non-verbal cues such as pauses to deliver an appealing argument.  For senior citizens, debates can provide an entertaining outlet to positively share one’s views while increasing memory retention.

If you’re looking to engage individuals, create a participatory audience, and assist residents in remaining current in societal issues, then organizing debates may just be what you’re looking for.  Here are the top eight reasons debating can assist senior citizens both intellectually and socially.

1.      Increases Memory

Perhaps the most important advantage of debating is that it utilizes memory.  Participants may of course use cue cards, but they often familiarize themselves with the material, memorizing key facts and arguments to present in the moment.  Regularly debating encourages participants to sharpen their memory skills, recalling a wide range of key information at the drop of a hat.

2.     Sharpens Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Debaters must research their position, logically organize their argument, and think quickly when reacting to their opponent’s arguments.  Debaters must consider an argument from both sides in order to counter their opponent’s potential arguments.  This process sharpens participants’ ability to predict as well as critically assess and respond to information their opposition may present during the debate.

3.     Encourages Listening Skills

Debaters must actively listen to their opponents’ argument in order to address and counter it.  This process actively engages the brain, encouraging the individual to quickly process information and develop a logical and substantiated defense of their selected position.  And not only must the debaters listen closely, but the audience must do the same in order to determine which debater offered the most compelling and supported argument.  Perhaps to make debates more accessible, audience members could vote at the debate’s conclusion in addition to the judges; each debate could have a judge’s choice and an audience favorite.

4.     Encourages Socialization and Participation

Organized debates are more than just debaters speaking; they offer a wide variety of avenues for participation and socialization.    Depending upon how the debate is organized, there may be judges as well as timekeepers and moderators.  From physically setting up the room, to moderating, to timekeeping, to judging, to tallying scores (or audience votes), many senior citizens could find a role they that would enjoy.  Unlike other activities that may appeal to only a few individuals, debating often appeals to many.  Residents can also vote on topics to debate on a regular basis to ensure that the debate topics appeal to a wide range of interests.

5.      Fosters Friendship

Debating is a wonderful way to meet new people.  Whether senior citizens participate actively as debaters or passively as attendees, they have an avenue to meet new people, engage in lively discussions, and make new friends.  Attending debates may help audience members identify those with common beliefs, which can make striking up conversations easier.

6.      Maintains Involvement in Current Events

Many times senior citizens feel disconnected with the world around them.  However debating offers an opportunity for this population to maintain engagement with current events and really understand relevant local, national, and global issues.  However, not all debates need to be politically focused!  Fun generational-appropriate topics such John Wayne vs Clark Gable or grandkids vs. granddogs.

7.     Builds Confidence

Public speaking is a wonderful way for individuals, regardless of age, to develop confidence.  Sometimes senior citizens may feel overlooked or ignored by society, and debating may allow them to speak up instead of remaining silent when they feel as though they’ve been marginalized or mistreated.  Confident individuals lead happier, more fulfilling lives, and debating can help individuals develop this confidence.

8.     Provides Entertainment

Whether seniors participate in the actual debate or attend as audience members, debates can be extremely fun events.  Topics can range from politics to Hollywood, from religion to nature.  As debaters become more comfortable with presenting their arguments, they may begin engaging theatrics to entertain the audience though voice changes and body language.

Organizing debates for senior populations is a win-win decision.  Not only will debates provide entertainment and varied opportunities for participation, but they also encourage mental acuity.  The process of preparing for debates from conducting research, to recalling key facts, to presenting an argument all help to engage the brain and keep it active.

If you would like to organize a debating program in your community, please contact Hale & Fun on or 02 8034 6945/0425282317.

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