Why It’s Vital for Seniors to Share Their Stories

It’s a very different world now since my last entry, but much remains unchanged. In fact, some things are now more important than ever.

A question I was recently asked was “how can younger people encourage and engage the seniors in their lives to write more during this downturn?”

In the COVID-19 era, this question takes on a particular urgency, as the older folks in our lives are especially vulnerable to this virus. When they go, they will take all of their stories with them. Those stories include everything from family origins lost to time, anecdotes and histories that were never written down, creative ideas, and so on.

If anything, convincing a senior to share their story involves mostly the same type of conversation you’d have convincing anyone to share their experiences in writing. You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, especially writing, but if you at least open the possibility for them, they may decide to open up.

Consider the story of my friend’s grandmother. She would always make the best, tastiest meals, but neither my friend’s mom nor her aunt and uncle had bothered to learn how to cook, and so never took the time to sit and teach them how to make.

On the other hand, Grandma didn’t consider what she did important enough to write down (“Oh, why would you want to know a silly thing like how to make my meatloaf?”).

When my friend’s grandma died in 2018, she took her recipes with her, and that knowledge was lost forever.

It’s a common tale. i’m sure you know someone who has (or you yourself have) experienced something similar with a now-dead relative. Whatever they don’t record is gone.

This is the thing: your stories matter to someone, to many people. Certainly not everyone, but that’s not the goal. The idea is to preserve something of yourself in life in a way that you can’t see now. Because the people for whom your stories matter need them, in ways that you can’t appreciate.

Your legacy is incomplete unless you write it down. If writing isn’t our strong suit, or if you need coaching or coaxing along the way, there are people who can help. (I am one of them), but there’s nothing stopping you from starting.

And given that so many of us are now cooped up in our rooms and homes for the foreseeable future, writing your story – whether it’s a full memoir or a book of recipes – is a good way to pass the time, don’t you think?

(Thank you to Jameel for suggesting the question!)