While no life lasts forever, story can. Preserving legacy is important to individuals, family members, friends, and future generations. Everyone has a life story that is worth telling and recording. When someone is suffering from memory difficulties, the preservation process can be daunting for them if they try it alone.
Here are a few tips for people who want to record the life stories of their aging family members. It does not require the writing skills of a novelist. It does not require the imagination of a movie director. It just takes patience, a little planning, and a great deal of respect.
Express a Genuine Interest in Knowing More
In the past, it was not always possible for people to preserve audio and visual aspects of important events. Remember, instant communication and video is a relatively new convenience. Older people love to reminisce while telling the stories that they have told countless times before.
When a family member genuinely asks an older person to tell a story, it immediately opens a person’s mind. The story will be told in greater detail, and it will be communicated with greater honesty, accuracy, and candidness.
Disguise a Legacy Interview as a Normal Conversation
It is very easy for an older person to become fatigued when trying to recall an event. Instead of hounding someone for life details, weave questions into normal speech. Every time you visit your loved one at home, or in a facility, shift your conversational focus.
If you normally talk about the weather, direct the conversation in a historically relevant way. Ask about summers when they were growing up. Ask an older veteran about how the weather affected them when they were oversees. It is amazing how older people will associate wonderful memories with simple conversational topics.
This is a great way to turn a normal visit into an opportunity for discovering vibrant information. Also, consider introducing simple activities to help them recall details. A weekend drive to a familiar part of town can help memories rush back.
Use the Power of Many Ears
If you do decide to engage a loved one in conversation, do not do it alone. When more than one person is listening to a life story, many more details will be heard. It is like watching a TV news story told through the perspectives of several reporters. Inevitably, a more comprehensive story will be told.
More than one person hearing a life story is also important for interpretation. Older individuals are sometimes at a loss for the right words to express their thoughts. Like reporting the news, when more people contribute energy, the story will be more vibrant and complete.
Use the Technology Available to You
Families are blessed with items like smartphones, digital recorders, and laptop cameras. With a love one’s permission, use these tools to record conversations and answers to difficult questions. If your goal is to create a literary piece of work as a legacy, a recording will come in very handy. You can review the person’s words as many times as you need. This can also be a benefit if there are legal issues accompanying the need to preserve someone’s life story.
If you suddenly develop the desire to preserve an aging loved one’s life story, do not ignore the desire! There is a reason that aspects of this person’s life should be made permanent. It might not be evident now, but it certainly will be in the future. That person’s life is also part of your own.