We are our history, individually and collectively, and listening is truly an act of love.
Most people love to share their lives if someone is listening. By listening to others, we tell them their lives and stories matter and that they are important to us. Warm Valley Lodge Assisted Living in Dubois recommends giving this gift to our older loved ones this season.
Set time apart to sit with someone whose story you don’t know, or only know parts of, and interview him or her. Sharing stories is therapeutic, especially for the elderly. Reminiscing and life story writing can improve the mood and quality of life for adults with more years behind than ahead of them.
One of the markers of a life well lived must surely be the stories, experiences and memories that are told, retold and shared throughout a lifetime. Interviewing a loved one is the best way to continue that retelling for generations.
We know the facts. We often don’t know the story—the story of the feelings and events that shaped their lives. Spend time with a family member and learn their story—which is a part of your own story. Recording or writing these stories down creates an invaluable archive for future generations, and it can bring enjoyment, satisfaction and closure in the later stages of life.
Suggestions to help with the conversation
Use a prepared question list, but remember they are just suggestions to get you started. Trust your instincts. When you hear something that moves you, ask more questions.
Feel free to ask questions in whatever order feels right, and don’t let your questions constrain the conversation. Your storyteller should not feel like they are being grilled. Follow their lead. If a story goes in a direction far from the next question you planned, go with it. Real moments are the best moments.
Find a quiet, private place and a chunk of time where you won’t be interrupted. If possible, plan for an hour. Interviews can be emotionally draining. After an hour, when you come to a natural stopping point, take a break. Check in with them to see if they want to continue on a different day. Remember you will not be able to capture everything about their life in one interview.
It is OK if someone gets emotional during an interview, but sometimes you’ll encounter subjects that are off limits. If someone tells you they don’t want to talk about something, respect their choice and switch gears.
Questions to ask
We encourage you to use the ones you like and to come up with your own.
- Where is your mom’s family from? Where is your dad’s family from? What were your parents like?
- What traditions have been passed down in your family? What was your favorite holiday and what did you do?
- Who were your favorite relatives?
- What were your grandparents like? Do you remember any of the stories they used to tell you?
- Where did you grow up?
- What was your childhood like? What is your best memory of childhood?
- Did you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
- Do you have any siblings? What were they like growing up?
- What are your best memories of school? Worst memories? Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life?
- How did you meet your spouse? How did you know he/she was “the one?”
- What were your children like growing up? Do you have any favorite stories about them?
- Do you remember any songs that you used to sing to her/him? Can you sing them now?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- What did you do for a living?
- How did you get into that line of work?
- Do you have any favorite stories from your work life?
- Were you in the military?
- Did you go to war? What was it like?
- What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?
- How would you like to be remembered?
- What lessons did you learn in life?
- Are there any funny stories or characters from your life that you want to tell me about?
- How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
Sitting down and unfolding the story of a loved one is a service to both of you. You’ll hear stories you’ve never known and get to know this special person on a deeper level. You will give the gift of being heard and preserving his or her stories. Warm Valley Lodge used storycorps.org as a resource for this article, originally featured in their newsletter. Learn more at warmvalleylodgewy.com and storycorps.org.
About Warm Valley Lodge Assisted Living
Forget what you think you know about assisted living. Warm Valley Lodge is the realization of a dream shared by a group of lively Wyoming locals. They dared to think about the type of place they wanted to live when they got older. They aspired to stay near cherished family and the natural mountain surroundings of their home state. They imagined a place that could provide for their needs and make a difficult transition easier. They sought something vibrant. Something warm and inviting. And they decided to build it. Warm Valley Lodge is home to many special people who embrace their independence and take advantage of the social activities offered. Learn more at warmvalleylodgewy.com or by calling (307) 455-2645.