The Greatest Gift Of All: What Our Elderly Desire Most

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

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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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