A friend recently recounted how she would often beg her mother to “tell me a story” and her mom would oblige by animatedly recounting events that happened before my friend was born: how her parents met, why they moved from an urban area in a state full of family to a rural area where they knew no one, how each of her beloved cats came to be part of the family. While this oral history has given my friend many fond memories, its impermanence threatens the likelihood of it being passed on to future generations.
My friend’s mom can still be easily coaxes into sharing her stories, but having those words in writing would be an invaluable contribution to my friend’s family legacy. Here are a few reasons why baby boomers and beyond should be encouraged to take up memoir writing and how you can help them with the process:
They will help connect younger generations with the past
The parents and grandparents of Generation X lived in a pre-digital world that is essentially an abstract concept to younger generations. Add to that the instability of digital data, and you’ll start to see the value in preserving physical records such as photographs, letters and journals.
They’ll get more quality time with their loved ones
Maybe you see your senior family members once a year, maybe you see them once a day. Either way, if you choose to help them in composing their memoirs you will both benefit from the bonding nature of familial storytelling. Coming together to reminisce about family history and taking a joint stroll down memory lane can strengthen relationships and bring families together. Having tangible items to look through together, such as those noted in the previous point, will make this time together even richer and more fulfilling.
They will be contributing to a much broader historical record beyond just that of your family
Consider, as an example, that of the 16 million Americans that served in WWII, only an estimated 855,000 veterans are alive today. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those veterans in your family, you have access to a first-hand account of an event that is slowly fading from the minds of the collective conscious. There are a multitude of historic events that your parents, grandparents and extended family may have been witness to. These stories can enrich our shared view of the past by making it more vivid and informed.
It may improve their mood and overall health
It’s no secret that aging comes with its share of physical and cognitive challenges, and a recent New York Times article cited several studies that support the conclusion that writing about your life can be an empowering experience. By giving one a greater sense of ownership and control over their personal narrative, and enabling them to edit that narrative, memoir writing can help individuals overcome obstacles to both their physical and mental health.
I hope my friend will succeed in encouraging her mother to write down those stories she tells so well.
Is there someone in your life who could use some memoir writing help? For tips and tricks on collecting materials and getting those memoirs started, check out our Memoir Writing Made Easy course.