Have you seen the popular magazine “Reminisce”? It has struck a chord with many people because it is a folksy collection of reader-submitted photos and stories recalling the “good ol’ days” of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. To read an issue is like sitting with a good friend and swapping family memories and scrapbooks.
Reminiscence is an important part of our life experience. It can be a very fond recollection of our most precious moments: birthdays, weddings, homes, vacations, career highlights, new babies, graduations, and other milestones shared with loved ones. It can also be a time of review, when we can look back at choices and decisions to trace our journey and see what we have learned along the way. Often, our reminiscence contains both pleasure and regret. There are some things we would like to do over or do differently. Perhaps we have the need to make amends or to let go of a grievance.
As we grow older, we often find that the pace of life slows enough that we can make productive reminiscence part of our “work”. Some quietly reflect and muse. Others write in a journal or perhaps even create an autobiography for their descendants. Sometimes a younger family member will try to capture the wisdom and life experience of an elder by interviewing them. Whatever your style might be, nearly all seniors spend time thinking about the legacy they have created.
When a senior has an in-home caregiver from Cascade Companion Care, nearly everything in the home can evoke a memory that might be shared. War medals, wedding photos, crafts and hobbies, awards, and those precious people smiling from the refrigerator door – all these and more can be entry points for friendly reminiscing with your caregiver. Whether the caregiver is a curator of memories, a sounding board, or someone who tries to help elicit fading memories, he or she can facilitate the healthy process of life review.
One evening, while watching Lawrence Welk with a client, he began to recall how he and his wife danced to a particular song being featured. With a few gentle leading questions, I drew out a very complete and endearing story of their courtship that left him smiling with pleasure and searching for photographs. His reminiscence turned to review, as he shared with me how his wife had been the most important person in making him have the happy and full life he enjoyed.
Other seniors have reminisced with me about topics as varied as how a ham radio license created a network of friends throughout the United States, what is was like to be a twin, how dreadful it was to lose a son, what it felt like to be an immigrant, how war memories still invade dreams, and how they used their wits to survive the depression. It is an honor to listen and to reflect genuine interest, positive regard, honor, sympathy, and understanding. When seniors have opportunities to process their lives, they often feel that the pieces of their story begin to make sense. They experience a sense of satisfaction, completion, and peace.
There is a national initiative called Story Corps which is attempting to curate the marvelous, rich and varied stories of Americans. This one tells the story of a young child who longed for his own set of cowboy chaps, and how the chaps he finally got later in life left a legacy of faith and comfort for his son and grandson.
Everyone has a story. Please share yours!