Seniors have lived a long life full of experience and history. Through their stories, seniors can paint the picture of what it was like to live during a different era. These stories hold family secrets and history as well as general events that happened in the world during their life. If seniors do not get the opportunity to share these stories, they could be lost forever.
Silver Comet Village, a retirement community in Powder Springs, Georgia, values these stories and wants to help prevent them from fading away. We want to help you or the senior in your life, share their life story for future generations.
Why Generational Stories Matter
“Because our families are among the most important social groups we belong to and identify with, stories about our family tell us who we are in the world, and who we should be,” says Robyn Fivush, Ph.D. “Stories about our parents and grandparents provide models of both good and bad times, as well as models of overcoming challenges and sticking together.”
Generational stories matter because they hold family history that cannot be found in a history book. The only way this key information gets passed down is through these stories. A senior’s life story paints a more personal and relatable picture to important events in history. Younger generations and family members form an emotional tie to these historical events instead of learning generic or general details.
How Sharing Life Stories Can Benefit Both the Senior and Their Family
Creates a Bond
DailyCaring states that “...the main benefit of storytelling is the bond it creates between people.”
As you listen to a senior tell his or her story, you learn about who he or she is as an individual, through their experiences. This creates an understanding and empathy between you and the senior in your life.
According to Julie Hayes, Editorial Assistant at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, “Family caregivers who have taken part in life story programs have said it helped bring them closer to their loved one and gave them a better understanding of the person beyond his or her health condition. Most participants also reported that they felt empowered to use what they had learned about their loved one to provide more empathetic care.”
Care Becomes More Personalized
For those who may be caring for an older loved one, when you truly know the person you are caring for, you understand the best ways to provide that care. You are able to identify his or her values and things that are important to him or her. You can make the caregiving experience more personal by knowing and anticipating exactly what your loved one wants and needs.
“Listening to life stories can give you…insight into your loved one’s likes, dislikes, fears, and beliefs, as well as context for certain habits and behaviors (Julie Hayes).”
Memories flood into view when a senior tells his or her life story. He or she uses recollection skills to remember specific details in the story. Because of this, seniors telling generational life stories have shown to have improved memory, mental stimulation, and activeness.
Ways to Help a Senior Tell Their Story
At times, your parent or loved one may need help to share his or her life story. Whether he or she does not know where to start, or if they have trouble remembering, there are a few things you can do to help him or her along.
Ask Questions That Spark Memories
Prompts like, “Tell me about your first day of high school,” or “What did you get in trouble for as a kid?” will trigger memories and encourage answers more in-depth than a “yes” or “no.”
Go Their Speed
Once your loved one begins telling his or her life story, do not interrupt. Doing so could inhibit memories and cause them to lose their train of thought. Instead, go at their pace, making notes of aspects you want more details on.
Flip Through Photographs
Visuals are often a great way to spark emotions and memories. A single picture could bring back a dozen or more memories. This can also help you get a visual for the characters or places in your loved one’s story.
Mediums in Which Generational Stories Come to Life
There are many forms in which a generational life story can take. Choose one that will preserve their story for years to come!
- Story Time at Family Gatherings
- Writing Memoirs
- Story Through Photo Albums
- Audio Recording
The direct connection to your family history is held within your family member’s memories. It is your job to encourage him or her to share their wisdom and pass down their life story so that it will last for generations.
“Silver Comet Village recognizes the unique opportunity that we have to help our residents tell their stories. That is why we will be embarking on a rich endeavor of collecting those stories and compiling them in a way that each resident will have a priceless legacy to gift to their loved ones (Laura Carey, Executive Director, Silver Comet Village).” If you would like to share a family story, we would love to share it with the world!
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