Each person carries within us the universal human experiences of living, working, growing, and playing, but seniors, in particular, are a wealth of wisdom gained from a lifetime of joys and struggles. What a tragedy it would be if all of those moments were lost forever like tears in the rain.
The good news is each person is a potential storyteller who can capture his or her experiences in a journal or personal memoir to someday pass along to family.
A memoir (a word that can sound pretentious or intimidating to most of us) is simply a document someone creates by writing things down, either by hand, typing on a computer or recording on video or a tape recorder.
Even if the story isn’t about the teller directly (some may feel their life is too ordinary to be all that interesting), every senior has lived through decades of history and adapted to events – from swings in the economy to wars to changes in society’s traditions and expectations.
Hearing how an aging loved one endured and reacted to these times enriches our understanding of larger history by forging a personal connection.
Once they grow into mature, inquisitive adults, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will rightly want to know more about where the family came from and how events that have shaped the country also shaped their elders.
A good place to start is by answering the right questions. Here are a few:
- Where were you born?
- What can you remember about your siblings?
- What was your childhood and youth like?
- What stories did your parents tell you about their own lives or how they met?
- Did your childhood homes have water/electricity/indoor plumbing/central heat?
- Did you grow up in town or on a farm?
- What did your mother cook?
- What were your favorite games and toys as a child?
- When did you first see a TV/a computer?
Sometimes the most entertaining stories are the ones that express our flaws or surprise people. Everyone’s young once and makes mistakes early on the path.
It would be a real tragedy for seniors, one of our most valuable resources, to not pass on down their knowledge and experience to future generations.