Each year, as Christmas approaches, when we are met with the daunting challenge of finding thoughtful gifts for our grandfathers and grandmothers, we ask ourselves and everyone around what to buy for them. Whether we gift movie tickets or dark chocolate, we are perhaps missing their most precious need, our attention. Most older adults in our families aren’t seeking shiny new toys, clothes, or money; they seek our time, our listening ear, and our companionship. Those older adults in our families and community have many years’ worth of stories and experiences that they are so eager to share with us, and we can benefit just as much from preserving that history. This is where we have an opportunity to provide the best gift for our older family members, through sharing and preserving their legacy.
In what ways does sharing a personal legacy help older adults?
There have been many studies performed to find the benefits of writing or sharing a personal memoir. They have found that it increases self-acceptance, energy, positive outlook and connectedness, while lowering anxiety and tension.1 By talking through traumatic past experiences or obstacles in life, people can find the silver lining more easily through reflection and hindsight. This allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment from overcoming their obstacles. Many realize that these circumstances often led to amazing events that shaped who they have become.2 This process is therapeutic and releases any lingering tension from the past.3
Older adults love to feel that their experiences can be an added value to their future generations, and want to feel that their contribution to society will survive beyond their own passing. By completing some form of tangible legacy, they feel that their experiences will benefit and help someone in the future.4
How can preserving your loved one’s history benefit you and future generations?
Confidence is derived from a sense of self-knowledge. When someone knows who they are and where they come from, they tend to live happier lives and make better decisions. When a legacy is preserved, future generations can learn of past ancestors and find common ground that allow them to feel like they are a part of a bigger picture. People going through self-identity crises can especially benefit from this process.5
Older adults have a unique firsthand account of their history and culture that is exclusive to them. Their family can greatly benefit from hearing these accounts and how their older relatives overcame life’s many challenges. Through sharing and preserving these firsthand accounts, younger family members may just find the role models they have been seeking.6
What options do I have to preserve my loved one’s history?
There are many ways you can preserve their history. The ideal, yet most expensive way would be to hire an author to conduct interviews and compile journals into a complete book. This method can range anywhere from five to thirty thousand dollars. A more cost-effective way would be to create photo books, audio interviews, or even take the time to write it out yourself. Keep in mind that this method can be very time consuming, and requires a lot of energy. Many people start the process of writing it out themselves, however as years pass, they soon realize it’s too late to finish.
My grandpa was determined to write his whole life history, and about three years into it, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia and wasn’t physically or mentally able to finish his writing. I took it upon myself to interview him and finish it for him, but sadly it was just too late. I then decided that this interview model could help other older adults who don’t plan or have the capacity to write out their whole life story.
What is Write My Story?
Write My Story is a new website and innovative preservation method that is designed to capture one’s life history in as little as one month. Three different preservation packages are offered, each building on the amount of content you want, utilizing audio interviews, photos, and documents. Interview prompts are provided to assist in three to five-hour interviews with your older relative. This provides a great bonding experience and opportunity to learn more about their life.
Once these interviews are completed, they can be submitted to Write My Story online, along with any documents and pictures you want included in their book. Our team of editors will transcribe and format them into a final draft, which will be sent back to you for final review. Once the review is completed and returned, you will receive two (or more) leather bound copies of your loved one’s life history to preserve their legacy and share with future generations.
The gift of preserving the legacy and history of our older generation has immeasurable benefits to the individuals preserved and the many generations that follow. This method allows us to spend quality time with our loved ones, listen to their amazing journey and stories, and provide an understanding of our heritage. After about two generations, one’s life legacy can be forgotten without any form of recorded documentation. This legacy will last longer than any other form of inheritance or other personal items, and there’s no better time than now to protect and preserve our past and the legacy of those we love.
Kayla is a therapist at the Provo Center for Couples and Families and earned her PhD at BYU. She is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist and specializes in working with couples dealing with anxiety, affairs, trust, and depression issues. Her interest is in emotional regulation and how the brain, body, and relationships are all intertwined.