By Lori Stevens, Certified Concierge Care Advisor
It was in my mid-twenties when I realized just how important preserving your story is to your loved ones. My grandmother passed away suddenly, and I realized what was not already committed to my or my family’s memory was lost. A few years prior I had purchased a type of scrapbook for her called “Grandma’s Memories.” This was a book where you could list your family tree, stories of your childhood, insert family photos, and capture important moments. When she passed away, I looked for that book to see if she may have entered at least something into the book. When found, it was still in its packaging, untouched. I’m sure it was a bit overwhelming to start something like that. Where do you begin?
With the lesson learned, we made sure to impress upon my grandfather the importance of doing this. His childhood was extremely hard, and he shared the story often. My mom encouraged him (as well as provided a couple of steno pads) to just start from early childhood and handwrite those stories. Surprisingly, he got going on it right away. I consider it such a treasure to have those two steno pads completely full, in his own handwriting, his stories of running away as a 12 year old and never going back home. He talks about his adventures during that time, time in the Army, and even includes his time working to build the Grand Coulee Dam as a young adult.
Last week I was visiting my childhood/lifetime friend, Susan. This past fall, she was diagnosed with cancer and has endured chemotherapy as well as surgery for the last many months. She told me about a friend purchasing a subscription to “Storyworth” for her. In a nutshell, Storyworth guides you through the process of telling your stories. Each week they ask you a question or give you a topic that you submit. At the end of a year, they make your collection of stories into a book for you. What a great way to keep you ‘on task’ in writing your story. It helps you along the way, so it won’t seem overwhelming. Of course, if you utilize this service, you must be able to work with the program on a computer or other device. You can find info at www.storyworth.com .
Other ways to help your senior tell their story could include:
- Finding a local group that tells stories through art or small group chats (perhaps at a senior center or community center)
- Buy them an easy-to-use tape recorder, and show them how to use it. This can be very convenient, and helpful if someone has arthritis or vision loss, making it troublesome to write
- Encourage them to tell their story how THEY want to. No need to stick with a particular format or write stories in particular order
- Give them ideas about what to write about: i.e., their past occupation, grade school friends, special talents or hobbies, instructions on life basics like how to sew a button, canning fruit and vegetables, or how they met their spouse.
- And of course, encourage them to get as much down on paper about their ancestry or family tree.
Not only will their story be treasured by their family, but this can be particularly good for brain health, memory, and activity for them to do on a regular basis. Although National Write Your Story Day has passed (March 14th), you can start your story every day…it’s never too late!