Everyone has a story to tell — and seniors have collected a lot of stories over the years. These stories matter because they are a link to the past. A senior’s stories can connect generations, describe history, and teach life lessons.
But our aging family members won’t be around forever to tell their tales. That's why it’s important to record these memories now and preserve them for future generations. Let’s explore how you can capture a senior’s legacy.
Questions to Ask
Recording memories or writing a life story typically starts with a conversation about the past. And to get that conversation going, here are some questions you can ask your loved ones.
- What was it like where you grew up? While you might know the name of the city where a senior grew up, there is so much more to learn. Even familiar cities were very different decades ago.
- Was your dream career? Did you achieve it? Why or why not? Some of us know exactly what we want to be from a young age. However, many of us change our aspirations as we get older. What were your loved one’s aspirations?
- What were your parents like? We usually have a particular image of Grandpa and Grandma based on our own experiences with them or from stories. But your loved one can share insights about their parents and paint them in a different light.
- What were some turning points in your life? You might be surprised to discover some of the drastic changes your loved one made and what prompted them to do it.
- What talent are you proud of? There are many types of talents your senior could have — art, theater, music, trivia, etc. Ask your senior to tell you about a talent that they are proud of to learn more about how they view themselves.
- What kind of student were you in school? If you look up to your senior as a role model, you might be surprised that they weren't exactly the most well-behaved kid. Or perhaps they were always the way you know them to be today.
- What is one of your favorite memories? This open-ended question can prompt some of the sweetest memories. You can discover what is meaningful to your loved one, too.
- What are your favorite foods? You might discover that you have some tastes in common! And if your loved one is skilled at cooking, you could also ask them to teach you how to make their favorite dishes.
- What are the most important lessons you've learned in life? This question can reveal some of the greatest pearls of wisdom that our elders possess.
These simple questions will open up the door to countless details about your loved one and what helped shape them as individuals. You will enjoy travelling back in time with them, and they will be grateful you cared enough to capture their legacy. Of course, these questions are just ideas to really get the conversation going. Ask follow-up questions and dive deeper as your loved one shares about their life.
How to Record Memories
There are multiple ways that you can preserve the answers to the above questions so that you and others have a tangible collection of memories. Here are a few formats to consider.
A video recording is a great way to capture a senior’s memories because you can hear their voice and see their facial expressions and gestures. Ask questions, reminisce together, and capture these wonderful moments on video.
You don’t have to have a huge production setup; a smartphone is enough to capture a senior telling their story in their own words. You can use a tripod instead of holding the phone in your hand. Not only is a tripod less shaky, but it is more discreet and can help your loved one maintain eye contact with you as they answer questions.
A memory book is a wonderful way to explore your family history and preserve a senior’s legacy. If an aging loved one is able to write on their own, encourage them to jot down a few family memories. Or, you can take notes and write their stories down in a diary or notebook. Just make sure you come prepared with paper and pencil!
There are also a number of memory books you can purchase that come with prompts, lines for writing, a family tree, recipes, and more! These could be great at guiding the conversation and recording family legacies.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so a scrapbook can be another meaningful way to preserve memories. Scrapbooks today can be family photo books or even digital spreads. You can also include other documents, like newspaper clippings and letters.
We recommend adding some dates and labels to pictures in the scrapbook to provide context. Even better — add short blurbs that share a memory in a senior’s words for friends and family to read.
Audio is often overlooked in a visually demanding world. But simple audio of your senior singing a family song, reading a story book, or relaying a story is a powerful reminder of who they are and what they mean to you.
All you need is a smartphone or another recording device. You can set it down on the table and record the conversation with your loved one. And if you want, you can edit the sound bites later or combine it with some visual elements.
By taking the time to capture memories of the past, you preserve your senior’s legacy and enrich their lives by reminiscing with them today. You’ll love learning about and revisiting the past, while they’ll love passing on important wisdom and information they have to share.