Story and Why
article submitted to Your Life Is
Helping the Elderly
by Eve Barnes, © July, 2014
has an older family member who has told them stories of the past. If
you grew up listening to grandma’s tales of war and wash
days, you may have shut your ears off because you’re more
interested in the present. But stories passed down through the
generations leave an important legacy for families.
Elderly people were there to witness things that younger people can
only imagine. They also experienced the mundane which can be equally as
fascinating. They were there to witness the mini skirt,
the invention of frozen foods and the world’s first
supermarket. They were there when television sets only had two channels
and there was no such thing as the internet or iPhones. Some remember
no central heating, four in a bed and only eating meat on a Sunday.
Memories of the elderly may not be spectacular,
but they are an
of our history through the decades and a source of heritage information
for relatives. That is why families should encourage their senior
members to share all they know about their life and experiences, no
matter how trivial the details may seem. As people age they sometimes
lose memory or find it harder to piece together events so it would be
prudent to record their experiences before they become lost. If your
loved one is experiencing cognitive decline there are lots of things you can do to sharpen memory
and create a permanent record of their life.
• Get them talking – Do this in a group with your
other family members so they don’t feel embarrassed.
Don’t ask direct questions in case they have trouble
recalling events or feel under pressure. Make your questions more
general. Ask what favorite memories your loved one has.
Look at old photographs – If your loved one doesn’t
remember a certain person, you can say who they are (for instance,
“Oh, that looks like aunty.”). Old photos are a
useful tool and may trigger powerful memories.
• Don’t over question your loved one. Sometimes
people with dementia may become confused or distressed when questioned.
Structure your ‘interviews’ in small, manageable
• Use a camcorder to make a unique film about your loved ones
life. If he or she feels singled out, ensure you film other people in
the room or include them in the film as well.
• Get them to start writing a journal.
In addition to it being a written record for you to keep, it will
improve memory and functioning. Researchers at North Carolina State
University tested 71 undergraduates by asking them to write about a
stressful event. They had to complete three 20 minute writing tests
over two weeks and
then undergo three memory tests in the first seven weeks after the
experiment. Those that had taken part in the writing exercises had
modest improvements in working memory. The research is useful because
it could mean that your elderly relative’s memory is
heightened by keeping a journal of her experiences.
• If your loved one is good with computers (you’d be
surprised how many grandmothers are) then there are electronic journals
you can access. Ivy Bean was 104 when she became proficient on twitter
so she can keep her memories on computer. The Journal from DavidRM Personal Journaling software is a good
• They don’t have to know how to write a
masterpiece. Diary entries can be as simple as what they had for dinner
or the conversation they had at the post office. Insignificant details
make wonderful reading for future generations.
You can hire a ghost writer to tell the story if you’re loved
one is finding it difficult. No, a ghost writer doesn’t tell
spooky stories. They are there to write the story in the
person’s name so they don’t have to do the hard
• If you’re not proficient with the camera and you
want a record on film, you could hire a professional to do it for you.
Some are skilled at making legacy videos in particular. For instance, Legacy Multimedia can make a classic
film of your loved one to help tell their story and create a lasting
record for you.
• If you have kept notes of your conversations with your loved
one you can upload them onto your computer and make them into an e-book
so you can share their autobiography with others.
There are lots of ways you can help your relative remember so that your
family can have a cherished record of their life. Do it today so it can