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Sharing Life Lessons

Karen Moriarty is president of North Carolina's premier assisted living provider for seniors.Elders want to share their life experiences, just ask them. Baby Boomers consider passing down family history and stories more important than leaving their children heirlooms or inheritances. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Allianz Academy of Legacies, Baby Boomers polled prioritized family history and stories (85%) and life lessons and values (77%) over keepsakes, heirlooms (34%) and financial assets (10%).

Why then have so few families made provision for passing down legacies, family history and stories for their posterity in their will or estate plan?

Here are four possible reasons:

  • Many seniors do not know how initiate passing down their stories.
  • Humility may cause seniors to avoid talking about themselves.
  • Many seniors may feel that they have lived a boring life, and that nobody would be interested in their personal story.
  • Procrastination may result from these and other uniquely individual factors seniors may face.

As a result of these obstacles, senior’s children and their grandchildren are denied a chance to learn valuable life lessons from their elders, and future generations lose lifetimes of stories, experiences and wisdom as seniors pass away. A family’s individual place in history may be lost. Seniors have a critical role in handing down their life-defining moments, milestones and special memories to posterity.

Seniors often lose their sense of purpose and feel as if they no longer play a vital role in the family. Yet their minds possess priceless memories of experiences only they can share. Overcoming the unique and individual obstacles to a senior sharing life experiences and lessons may be challenging, but well worth the investment.

The best way to start the conversation is by asking what the elder knows about ancestors. Not only will this technique get the senior to open up and share, but also the information provided can be firsthand knowledge about undocumented family history that might otherwise have been lost.

The more stories a senior tells about other family members, the more they will begin to appreciate the value of the knowledge they possess, which makes progressing to their own personal stories easier.

We all love to reminisce with family photos and memorable keepsakes. Seniors have used reminiscing to preserve experiences and wisdom within the family for generations. Unfortunately, today’s mobile, social media and technology centered lifestyle hampers this valuable inter-generational activity. When was the last time you sat side by side with a senior for an extended period of time to reminisce about their life?

The next time you visit, ask them to bring out their photo albums and start reminiscing from their earliest memories. Ask them to share what they remember about their childhood, adult life, culture at the time and events that impacted their life. You’ll find that seniors who would never consider themselves a storyteller will tell some of the most captivating stories.

Passing down the family narrative requires documenting personal stories when they are told. Knowing what questions to ask and which photos and keepsakes are part of your family’s legacy can produce legacy stories that descendants will cherish from generation to generation.

Every senior should share life lessons with their family. The uniquely personal experiences and life lessons within your own family are once in a lifetime. Don’t you think you should capture those memories and moments to share with your children and your children’s children?

Posted in From the President Tagged , , , , , on October 3, 2016

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