In older age, most seniors find the roles that they occupy within their families are shifting, and the contributions that they make become different than they were before.
While they may previously have been caretaker, breadwinner, disciplinarian, co-worker, partner, or a whole host of other things, many seniors in older age now find themselves filling the role of guide, storyteller, or purveyor of wisdom. With a long life behind and many stories and experiences to share, grandparents, older friends, and elderly relations have a great deal to tell us about how they lived their lives and about how we might live ours as we go forward.
Growing older also, however, creates a greater chance that the wisdom, knowledge, stories, and lessons that seniors have to share will become lost before they can share it. Whether it be as a result of memory loss, cognitive and mental changes, or death.
Thinking ahead and encouraging our senior loved ones to take steps to record their wisdom and stories not only creates an everlasting connection to them after they are gone, but can also be a positive exercise for seniors to participate in as they remember their lives and know that the things that they have to share are valued and important by those they care about.
Stories and wisdom can come from many different areas of lived experience, and what one senior sees as their most valuable or important contribution may be entirely different from that of another person their age. Thinking through what is most important to seniors and to the loved-ones that want to remember them can help you to work out which means of recording things will be best. The following are some ideas of ways in which seniors can pass-on their memories, stories, wisdom, and lessons learned to those they care about:
- Make a Family Tree: Organizing and creating a family tree can show loved-ones how everyone is connected and can allow for seniors to reflect on how their family members have been part of their own lives. On top of just showing the connections between people, family trees can be made to include memories about people and important information that may be important for relatives to know and remember.
- Write it Down: Many people already keep a journal, but for people who don’t, or for seniors who want to write down their story going all the way back to the beginning of their lives, setting pen to paper can be a great exercise. Writing everything down creates an invaluable opportunity for seniors to reflect on their lives and on what has been important to them as they record things for their family members or loved ones to read.
- Record it: For seniors who don’t want to write, or feel that writing would be too much of a long-term time commitment, they can also try an audio or video recording of themselves chatting about things or being asked questions that their loved-ones may be interested in hearing the answers to. Having a legacy video means that people from all generations to come can look back and see not only a recounting of someone’s life story or wisdom, but also their mannerisms, speech, appearance and more of their personality than just what can be written in words on paper.
- Family Recipes: A lot of love and tradition can go into cooking and many of us have fond memories of our grandparents’ special signature dishes. Food can be a reminder of family and culture in a way that brings a fond memory to mind every time a certain meal makes its way to the table. Recording recipes to be passed down from one generation to the next can be an important way for people to feel connected to their family members and to remember all the fond memories they have around food, whether it be cooking together or just sitting down to a wonderful family meal. Creating a book full of important recipes can be a way for seniors to place themselves at their family’s dinner table long after they are gone.
- Pass on Things: For many of us, memories are attached to certain belongings that we have acquired throughout our lives. Seniors can choose to share some of their belongings with their family members while they are still alive, leave them in wills, or put them somewhere special to be found later, such as in a time capsule or other memory box. Seniors can write down little memories or stories to accompany these items so that no one every forgets why they are important.
- Organize Pictures: Pictures are wonderful for conserving memories, and organizing them in a way that family members can look at them and get a glimpse of a time gone by can be incredibly valuable. Seniors can enjoy the process of walking down memory lane as they organize and annotate pictures into a long story that their loved-ones can enjoy and use to remember them always.
Talking and sharing tales and stories with loved-ones is an incredibly valuable activity, but it can also be important to set some of these things up in a way that they will persist long after talking about them is no longer an option. Seniors can enjoy taking the time to be nostalgic and reflect on their lives from past to present while also creating invaluable keepsakes and memories that their loved-ones can always look back on to remember them and the lives they once led.