Connecting the Generations Through Storytelling
By Shannon Lynch
One of the upsides of the quarantining and social distancing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have turned to connecting with family and friends on video apps like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom.
The apps have been a boon for everyone from teens to seniors who have been video chatting with one another when it’s not possible to meet face to face. Sometimes the conversations involve just two individuals and other times entire families join in!
What stands out for many people during these moments of connection is how easy and enjoyable it has been for different generations to reminisce and share their family stories and life experiences.
Everyone has a story to tell that is unique and belongs to no one else. Siblings are sharing childhood memories; cousins, who may have met only a couple of times before at family reunions are reconnecting; grandparents are sharing stories with their grandkids about coming of age during the tumultuous ‘60s; and members of the oldest generation are recalling what it was like to live through the World War II years.
The video apps make it easy to do and may even foster a stronger bond between a youngster and an oldster when the younger person helps the senior learn how to use and become comfortable with the technology; in turn, the younger person gets to hear all about their relative’s amazing life experiences.
Research has shown that sharing family stories is especially beneficial for seniors because it improves self esteem, lessens depression and loneliness, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps to give new meaning to their life.
When a senior shares his or her accomplishments — in person, through a video app, or in writing — they are giving new purpose to their lives and creating a legacy by preserving an important part of their family’s history for future generations.
While the video apps make it possible to hear the stories out loud, some seniors might be more comfortable telling the stories of their lives by writing down their memories in a journal or notebook that can later be shared with family members.
Not sure how to begin sharing your stories? Here are a few prompts to get you started:
Photographs: Looking through photos can be a great starting point. Most seniors, for instance, still have actual photos, in boxes or in albums. Sorting through those, alone or with a loved one, will certainly conjure up some memories and some laughs.
Holiday Traditions: What are your favorite holiday memories? Do they involve tromping through a snow-covered field to find the perfect Christmas tree? Lighting the menorah candles during Hanukkah? Preparing special dishes for Thanksgiving or Easter? Baking Christmas cookies with your grandma?
Music Memories: Share your musical tastes with your grandkids. You may be surprised to find that your musical preferences may overlap in certain areas. What concerts did you attend as a teen? How do they differ from the concerts your teen grandkids enjoy today?
Family Treasures: Does a certain piece of jewelry evoke memories? Do you still have a rotary phone? Did you use your carpenter skills to make the dining room table that has now been passed down to one of your kids? These objects can start a conversation that will help you share the story behind the item.
However, you choose to do it, sharing stories among the generations is easy and fun. As one story leads to another, you’ll be creating long-lasting and precious memories that your family members will cherish. So what are you waiting for? Plunge in and enjoy the process — and all the fascinating stories!
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903. For more information, go to www.themorrisoncommunities.org.