3 Ways To Get Value From Reminiscing

Do you know why older adults tell the same stories over and over? Because it’s how they make meaning of their lives. 

Reflection on their life events affirms that their life has been worthwhile 

The life review process is an important part of healthy aging, psychologically and spiritually. If your loved one doesn’t spend time processing their past, feelings of failure and regrets can overwhelm them leading to depression.

You can help the senior in your life gain a positive perspective of their past. Inspire their storytelling. Encourage their memories. Use the following  3 approaches: Listen, Record, Share.

Listening is an Act of Love

"The soul is contained in the human voice," says David Isay, founder of StoryCorps. “Eliciting and capturing our stories is a way of insisting that every life matters.”

Good listening starts with asking good questions. Here’s help getting started:

  • Prepare some questions that prompt storytelling. Ask about childhood memories, places lived, siblings, best friends, etc.
  • Pull out old photos. Ask about the people, places, and things in the picture.
  • Keep your questions open-ended.
  • It takes time to listen. Make sure you don’t rush.
  • Use some prepared questions. Check out these sites:
  • 22 Questions Prompting Childhood Memories
  • The Legacy Project
  • The Legacy Project Prompts – download pdf

Record and Preserve for Generations

Have you ever looked at old scrapbooks or photographs and wondered, Who are these people? What were they like? What were their hopes, dreams, successes, and failures? What did they think about the events of their times? What could I have learned from them if only…?

Your life story, your parent’s, and grandparent’s life story interconnect to make a bigger saga. By preserving life experiences, we create stronger roots and belonging-ness for future generations. Generations get connected. Your story, and your loved one’s story, makes a difference.

Use these suggestions for recording your and your loved one’s memories for future posterity.

  • Use your smartphone to record your loved one’s answers to questions you ask.
  • Take a picture of family heirlooms you’ve inherited. Ask your older person about the item. Who did it belong to? What do they remember?
  • If you don’t live nearby, use Google Hangouts or Facetime. Record the conversation with your loved one as they answer reminiscing questions.
  • Hire a professional historian to capture, write, and record your loved one’s memories.
  • Build a scrapbook together. (This would make a great Holiday Gift or Gift Coupon) Unbox those old photos. Ask your loved one about each one as you paste it in the album. Write out the story they tell you. (Make a digital copy in case the original is lost or destroyed.)


Every gift is meant to be shared. Shared stories build connections You don’t have to be the only one gathering your mom’s stories. She’d like to tell them to your siblings, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Maybe even the world.

This year, as you gather for Thanksgiving, make storytelling a family affair.

Join The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Download the StoryCorps app. “Use it create your own unique oral history with an elder or loved one in your life.”


The End

Every story deserves a good ending. Help your older loved one in their Life Review Process. It’s an important step in healthy aging. And, preserving their stories is a priceless gift – for them, you, and generations to come.

PS – here’s a TedTalk you might find interesting. 7-Generations

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