Families are built on years of history that are somehow both precious and grandly undervalued. The stories passed down from generation to generation are how we create legacy that will be remembered long after we are gone. But too often, the people who hold the keys to these stories lose details to memory loss, or pass away before their histories can be recorded. The time to gather these stories is now. You don’t need a perfect project, nor plans for professional production of any element, to get started.
Keep in mind that a collection of memories can be very personal, so don’t expect that your project will follow the same path as others you know. Consider the people who created these memories. Someone who was a talented photographer may have hundreds of photos, while others may have written long letters to share stories with family and friends. Someone who loved to sing and listen to music may have old recordings to preserve, as well as ticket stubs and event programs. Let their talents and interests guide your project, as well as how they like to share these memories with you. Many seniors are well equipped to contribute in their own way so let them tell stories, describe photos, sing, or write as they would like.
At first, let your goals be to curate items and inspire recollection as much as possible. Gather the materials, plan some time with your senior parents or grandparents, and focus on the stories. These are the most precious, and most irreplaceable so don’t wait for spare time or the perfect idea. Book some time, drag out the albums and boxes, and start talking and asking questions. As you begin, you’ll start to get a sense of what all you might want to gather or how to proceed. Then, once everything has been curated and protected from damage or loss, you can get creative.
What should you collect to preserve family memories?
- Old photos, memorabilia, souvenirs, letters, keepsakes
- Existing audio or video recordings
- New audio and/or video recordings – interview them or record comments as they review albums or keepsakes, read a favourite story, or share their talent.
- New family photos – remember to take photos of seniors as they get older, with family if possible
Where can you find these items?
- Look through seniors’ own photo collections, souvenirs, and memorabilia
- Ask immediate and family members to contribute photos and create a large family collection
- Reach out to friends and family who knew your senior parents or grandparents when they were younger
- Digitize old formats of keepsakes such as slides, recordings, music
- Create opportunities for new family photos or recordings with seniors
What are the benefits of preserving family memories now?
- Increased family connection
- Learn more about seniors as whole people – their youth, decisions, choices, lifestyle
- Personalize historical details and fill in gaps of family genealogy
- Build curiosity and respect in younger family members
- Seniors get the enjoyment of sharing their stories and an engaged audience
- Creates a living collection of memories to add to and pass down
- Can help seniors with failing memories to still be able to recount their lives
- Can help seniors downsize and preserve what is most important
- Photos and other memory triggers can be comforting to those who begin to suffer memory issues later in life or who suffer from dementia or Alzheimers
- Can ease the burden on family after a senior parent or grandparent has passed
Tips for preserving family memories:
- Scan photos, documents, and souvenirs
- Use a cloud-storage service to save photos and scanned items
- Explore genealogy services
- Ensure multiple people have access to all online accounts and storage
- Expand your ideas of what a memory collection can look like, for example you may want to consider photo albums, scrapbooks, written letters bound into books, memory boxes, shadow boxes or display cases, and digitized recordings
It’s helpful to consider early on who might like to be involved in your project. There will be value to seniors to have photos and keepsakes in hand to share with others now, but your immediate family may want copies or access to what you are curating as well. An online storage solution can allow multiple family members to access files, but you can also coordinate as you do more. Let others know your plans and ask if they want copies, for example, it’s often not much more expensive to print an extra copy of an album so you may choose to print multiples as you go and share costs from the beginning.
It’s the people and stories that matter, not if the projects are perfect. Your senior parent would likely treasure a scrapbook put together and decorated by their grandchildren just as much as something professionally produced. So remember, as you work through your project, take the time to linger over photos, and let the children in the family be part of the process. Let them see the pictures, ask their own questions and play interviewer – and never underestimate the technical savvy of the younger generation. They may come up with ideas you might never have thought of, and it’s a great way to include them in the journey.
Always remember, the magic is just as much in the experience as in the finished product. There is nothing like a firsthand account of something momentous to help us understand where we come from, and what the world was like for older generations. Create an experience enjoyed by all, and you may find your family continuing the tradition of record keeping for decades to come.
Have questions or feedback for us? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team