Believe it or not, an exercise as simple as reminiscing can have many positive effects on an aging adult. According to the American Psychological Association, therapy using reminiscence is “the use of life histories – written, oral or both – to improve psychological well-being.” Whether a senior is alert and healthy or suffering from a medical condition, here are some reasons why reminiscing is a beneficial tool to use as a caregiver.
Benefits of Reminiscing
1. Preserves Family History
Oftentimes, family members know close to nothing about the lives of their elderly loved ones. People tend to forget that the seniors in their family used to live young, full lives. Seniors who recount previous experiences can help pass on valuable memories for future generations.
Plus, reminiscing about days gone by can bring families closer together. Many family memories were experienced by several family members and others affect family history.
2. Helps Improve Their Quality of Life
Seniors who reminisce may also show improved outlooks on life. After remembering happy memories, seniors are often brighter and smile more. Simply engaging in animated conversation with others helps older people maintain more balance in their lives.
3. Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Reminiscence therapy is often used for patients with dementia and depression. According to the LA Times, those who take the time reflect on their lives "find greater satisfaction in their old age." When seniors are busy sharing their life accomplishments to others, it distracts them from being stressed about their medical conditions and increases their self-esteem.
4. Promotes Physical Health
Something as simple as recalling past experiences can also improve one's body. According to the book, "I Remember When: Activity to Help People Reminisce" by Howard Thorsheim and Bruce Roberts, seniors who reminisced showed lowered blood pressure and heart rates.
5. Works Through Unresolved Conflicts
Looking back on old conflicts in their lives can help seniors find closure. After going over past experiences with a more mature mentality and understanding, many people can move forward and live a more healthy present.
6. Eliminates Boredom
Talking about the past can offer relief, especially for seniors who are less mobile or live in a nursing home. It can also take them out of their current situation and help them relive more active days.
Old memories can provide laughter and entertainment for seniors and for their younger family members and caregivers. Prompting senior reminiscing can be done one-on-one or in group therapy sessions. However since "laughter is the best medicine" generating happy memories can make every day lighter for everyone that joins in.
7. Improves Communication Skills
As your loved one shares their past, it increases their ability to communicate. When they talk about their past, their memory is ignited and emotion is likely involved, too. Research shows that as seniors remember the past, new pathways are formed in the brain that help with communication. Also, it gives them an opportunity to practice communicating in a way that is meaningful to them.
8. Reduces Stress
When seniors have the opportunity to share their past with someone, it can reduce their stress levels. One reason for this is because it allows them to resolve issues from their past they may have not dealt with before. Another reason reminiscing is stress reducing is because it allows seniors to deal with negative emotions they many not know how to deal with otherwise. For example, your grandmother may not know how to talk about how much she misses your grandpa, but she may be able to share these emotions indirectly through stories.
9. Enhances Self Esteem
Aging is a process that can be quite challenging for many. Reminiscing helps your loved one cope with growing older as they recreate their life’s meaning by being connected to the past. It also helps reaffirm their feelings of being important. Plus, sharing the past helps seniors reflect on their achievements and appreciate what they have done or all that they know.
How to Help Seniors Reminisce
Seniors may need a little help getting started on sharing their stories and reliving good memories. Here are some ways to help!
1. Flip through old photographs and albums
Seeing familiar places and faces will prompt memories and stories that you may have never heard and elicit a great conversation with your senior.
2. Reference their favorite movies
Does your senior remember a movie that made an impact on them in their youth? Find out their favorite childhood film or the first movie they saw in a theater and watch it with them as they reminisce about their experience.
3. Relive holiday traditions
Ask your senior what they remember the most about the holidays of the past. Was it a favorite ornament or baking cookies with their mother? Help your senior relive some of those special moments by recreating some of their specific memories this year.
4. Play music that is special to them
Whether it is their wedding song or a tune that was a chart-topping hit during their youth, hearing songs that made an impact on them will bring back positive memories.
5. Use objects to reminisce
Take a few items that were present in their home and ask about the story behind the object. How and when did they get it? Why did they have it? What made it special to them?
You may also want to consider professional reminiscence therapy for your senior. At Caring Senior Service, our expert staff is comprised of extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and trusted professionals who take pride in helping your loved one manage their daily activities. Contact us today to learn more!