“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
It’s clear, based on the ever-increasing number of published biographies and autobiographies of the famous (and infamous!), there are many people who are more than happy to throw open the doors of their lives to scrutiny.
And while the autobiography of a celebrity or political figure can make for a compelling read (or in this day of books-on-disc, listen), the stories and remembrances of a loved one sound even more captivating. In recent years, many families have made a commitment to visiting with older family members and friends to record their life stories, an endeavor that promises benefits both now and years from now.
Caring.com, a wonderful website for caregivers, says recording a senior’s memories is especially important due to the many cases of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affecting the senior population. The good news is that for seniors with an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, deterioration doesn’t begin instantly, so collecting stories and personal history now is a great idea.
Deciding to collect a family member’s stories either through writing or recording is sometimes an easy and exciting moment for families. What may be a little more difficult is convincing the senior in question that their life is worthy of examination. It’s not uncommon for a senior to feel they really haven’t done anything significant to document, or they may feel that there are stories from their past they’d just as soon not revisit.
Whenever possible, accentuate the positive. Perhaps leave actual stories or life events alone and put together a collection of a loved one’s favorite songs or poems from their childhood. Make simple lists of favorite games and favorite foods. You just might find that as your time together progresses, the senior will after all decide to unburden themselves and share their warts-and-all recollections.
One family member cherishes the memory of motivating a favorite senior to share a particular story by starting the story herself, but purposefully getting the details wrong. The senior was more than eager to correct her, and the story is now one of her family’s favorites.
The journey into a senior’s past can be surprising, even emotional. What’s guaranteed is that the stories and memories you collect will be cherished by your family now and by future generations. So tell a story, record a story. It’s somehow comforting to know that although none of us can live forever, with a little work, our stories can.