The Greatest Gift Of All: What Our Elderly Desire Most

A couple of years ago I was walking out of a condo and overheard a slightly disheveled but very polite man ask the door attendant to call a taxi for him. The attendant said no. My husband picked me up and as we drove out the driveway I had him pull over.  I offered to call a taxi for the man. It was a small thing, nothing really, but the man was incredibly grateful, oddly grateful.  Why did that mean so much to him?

When contemplating our own mortality most of us want to feel that we have had some impact on the world. Our children and grandchildren are our legacy and hopefully, carry the best parts of ourselves forward. But the fact is we can never really know how much of a difference we make. As we near the end of the time we have been given, the thing our hearts long for the most is to know just that.

My first non-friends-and-family client changed my business – I help people tell their life stories. Debbie wanted to give my services to her parents for Christmas, but her father had Alzheimer’s Disease and he was just too advanced. So instead, each of their 8 grandchildren (from age 37 to 9, from Alaska to Florida) wrote and recorded their favorite memories of their grandparents. I turned the recordings and some old photos into a video that they were all able to watch Christmas Day. I see Debbie occasionally around town, and every time I see her she thanks me for the video. Her father passed away the following May.

If someone you love is ill or elderly please make a point of letting them know how they have affected your life. To know in the end that you have really made a difference in the lives of those you love just may be the greatest gift of all.

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A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words: Old family photos are priceless. Part 3 of 3

Now that you have spent the time recording your family stories and looking through the photos you realize they should be shared. But how?

Turn them into a Talking Memoir video by selecting images that illustrate the stories and send them to Yesteryear Studios to be transformed!

The idea is to select photos that illustrate the stories you have recorded. The problem is which ones should you include? We have a few ideas that should help.

The 3 main things to think about when selecting Talking Memoir photos are:
1. Who is the story about?
2. What is the time frame of the story?
3. What is the topic of the story?

So if the story is about how your grandmother celebrated her birthday as a child, start by trying to find photos of your grandmother. Next, narrow it down to photos of her taken as a child. Finally, if there are birthday pictures, that it the best!

Generally speaking, more photos make a video more interesting. So if there is only one birthday picture, include additional photos of your grandmother as a child. Don’t forget to ask your relatives if they have any photos.

What if there are no photos of Grandmother?

Maybe there is an object that belonged to her that you could take a photo of to represent her. We can also help by using stock images to fill out the visuals. For example, using a picture of a birthday cake or candles or vintage photos of her home town. Try to find at least 1 image that is unique to your family member. We’ll take it from there.

I’ve selected my photos, now what?

1. Assemble the images you have chosen in the approximate order you think makes sense for your stories, with the cover photo first.
2. Wipe any dust from your photos with a lint-free cloth.
3. Use a flatbed scanner to scan the photos as a jpeg file.
4. Attach the images to an email in the order you think makes the most sense based on your story. Your editor will creatively use the photos, so you don’t have to be perfect. This helps us understand the images without you having to label them for us.

Email your recordings and photos to [email protected] Be sure to type your project number in the subject line.

Don’t have a project number? Call 352-257-8077 or email [email protected] for more information.

We’ll take it from there!

Have a wonderful holiday, make it memorable!

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Talking Memoir Question Guide: What to ask your parents about their lives. Part 2 of 3

You have realized that your family history is priceless and want to record your parents’ life stories. The problem is where should you start? We created The Talking Memoir Question Guide to help.

Include Favorite Stories

There are probably a few favorite stories that you will want to make sure are included in your recording. To do this, make a list of those stories with the approximate year they would have taken place. When you get to that part of The Talk (see Suggested Questions below) prompt your parent to tell that story by saying something like “I remember hearing a story about (fill in the blank). Would you tell it?”

To set the mood, we suggest asking your parent to imagine the photo album of their life being full of images of the people they have loved and the experiences they treasure.

Suggested Opening Line:

“My name is (your name) and I am here with (parent’s name), my (relationship) to learn about his/her life experiences”.

Begin at the beginning. Start with your parents’ oldest memories.

Members of “The Greatest Generation” can be humble, so sometimes it is easiest for them to start by talking about someone else. Many people have special relationships with their grandparents. Ask about theirs. (This section may be repeated for all of their grandparents)

Suggested questions:
• What were your grandparents’ names?
• Where did they live?
• Describe each of them, what were they like?
• How did you spend time with them?
• Do you remember any stories they told you? What are they?
• Did they give you any advice about life? What was it?

Now move forward in time. Ask about their parents and childhood. (This section may be repeated for all parents/step parents)

Suggested questions:
• What were your parents like?
• Do you remember any stories they told you? What are they?
• Did they give you any advice about life? What was it?
• Tell me about your home and neighborhood as a kid?
• What was your relationship like with your brothers and sisters?
• Did you have any special holiday traditions? What were they?
• Describe your school day. Who were your friends, what did you do together?
• What are your favorite memories of your childhood?

This will naturally lead into adulthood. The busy years – Love, work and family.

Suggested questions:
• When did you leave school? What did you do after you left school?
• What caused you to make that choice?
• How did you meet your spouse?
• What was your courtship like?
• How did you become engaged? What was your wedding like?
• How did you feel when you first became a parent?
• Describe your family life?
• What type of work did you do?
• What did you do for fun?
• Did you have any hobbies? How did you get interested in that?

Ask them to reflect back on their life experiences. What do you think of it all?

Suggested questions:
• What are you most proud of in your life?
• What experiences changed the course of your life?
• Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance?
• What do you feel has given your life the most meaning? Why?

Now look to the future.

Suggested questions:
• What lessons have you learned that you would like to pass on to future generations of our family?
• Is there any advice you would like to give them?
• Do you have any hopes and dreams for your family?
• Are there any messages you would like to give to anyone in particular?
• Is there anything else you would like to share?

Everyone’s Life is Unique

Most likely some of the suggested questions will not be appropriate for your family member. After all, this is just a guide. Feel free to skip over the ones that don’t fit and add questions that do make sense for your family. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead, ask your parent to describe people and events, and to share specific memories.

Next time we’ll discuss photo selection.  A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

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Your Parents’ Memories Are Your Kid’s History. Have “The Talk”. Pass It On. Part 1 of 3

The next time you are at a party pay attention to how many times people bring up old family stories. It happens a lot, especially as we age. Will your kids remember your stories, let alone your parents’? Do something meaningful this year, ask your parents about their lives – have “The Talk”. If you want to do something really special, you can simply use your smartphone to record it and create a shareable Talking Memoir video using old photos!*

How To Record “The Talk”

There are lots of free and inexpensive smartphone apps you can use to record The Talk. Make sure you choose one that allows you to record for at least an hour and will allow you to email the recording from inside the app. That way it can be shared easily. The native iPhone Voice Memos app is a good one, so is Easy Recorder on Google Play for Android Phones.

A Few Technicalities

Have The Talk in a quiet room away from buzzing appliances and road noise. Close the windows and turn off the phones. The kitchen is not a good place to have The Talk. Choose a comfy spot, not sitting at a table if possible. Odds are one of you will tap the table during The Talk, and that sound comes through loud and clear in recordings. Finally, set your phone on a cloth with the speakers facing in between yourself and your parent. This will help to reduce background noise.

• Do a sound check before you start The Talk to make sure your voices are loud enough and balanced. Sit where you plan to talk and have each of you record a sentence or two. Play the recording then move the recorder closer if it isn’t loud enough, or further away if it is too loud.
• When you are ready to begin, turn the recorder on and silently count to 5 before you start speaking.
• It is likely that one of you will cough or clear your throat during the interview. Don’t worry about it! Simply pause, and begin that sentence again. The recording can be edited later on.

Set The Mood

If you have old photos, pull them out. Looking at them beforehand can be a great memory jogger (avoid looking at them during The Talk, shuffling photos will be heard in the recording). If you are lucky enough to have both of your parents, you might want to have them in the room together. They will help jog each other’s memories.

• Give your parent your full attention and listen deeply.
• Sit near him or her and look them in the eye.
• Don’t interrupt, and fight the urge to hurry them along as they gather their thoughts.
• Ask one question at a time and focus on having a great heart to heart.

Enjoy the Experience, Make a Memory

Modern life is pretty hectic and it is easy to take the elders in our lives for granted. Your parents won’t be around forever, but their impact on your kids’ lives is profound and lasting. So take an hour this holiday season and listen to Grandma and Grandpa’s stories. Their memories are your kids’ history. Pass It On.

Next time we’ll discuss what to talk about.  Talking Memoir Question Guide

* Not a techie or short on time? Yesteryear-Studios.com can help! Contact us at [email protected]

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