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Activities for Senior Citizens

Activities for Senior Citizens like conveying personal stories, experiences and memories through Storytelling and Life Story Writing can bring enjoyment, satisfaction and closure in the last stage of life.

Life Story Writing for Seniors

Copyright 2001-2006 Kathleen Adams. All rights reserved.
Reproduction prohibited without permission.

I was born on March 22, 1904 in Tecumseh, Oklahoma -- Indian Territory. I am the youngest of ten children -- five boys and then five girls. I had two very wise and wonderful parents. When I was 18 months old, my papa and mama each filed a claim on adjoining land farther up near the Panhandle of Oklahoma. We must have been traveling in covered wagons because we had an organ and all good things of Mama's. Mama was taking her side saddle. Later she cut off the leather flaps and half-soled us kids' shoes. She was a very efficient lady.

So begins the "memoirs" of Goggie, who, at age 86, began writing her life story at the urging of her granddaughter. Over the next several years, Goggie wrote or told dozens of vignettes that described homestead life in the Wild West -- her father's accidental death, carving out a settlement in the midst of Indian country, her toys and playmates, holiday celebrations, the courtship and marriages of her siblings, her own marriage at the age of 17.

By the time Goggie reached her 90s, dementia had stolen her ability to write or even tell her own stories. Her daughters and grandchildren filled in the gaps, writing and telling those stories most familiar and beloved from their own experiences, and scribing Goggie's faltering reminiscences. When Goggie died at 95, her eulogy was crafted around the "memoirs" that had become a family heirloom. Her granddaughter fashioned the stories into a booklet, and this hand-made treasure will follow 13 great-grandchildren through the next generations.

One of the markers of a life well lived must surely be the stories, experiences and memories that are told, retold, remembered and re-experienced throughout the life span. Life story writing captures the priceless and the poignant, the truly memorable and the quirkily remembered, the historic and the unique. It leaves a legacy of living history for future generations. And it can bring enjoyment, satisfaction and closure in the last stage of life.

Of the many excellent books on autobiographical writing, perhaps the best for seniors is Lois Daniel's How to Write Your Own Life Story. Originally published in 1980, it came out of the author's sense that she had "completely failed" a 75-year-old student in a creative writing class:

When I asked each student to state his or her reason for joining the class, this lady's reason was that for several years her children had been begging her to write the story of her life. "I don't know how to do it," she said, "and I thought you might be able to help me." Frankly, I had no idea how to help her... I hadn't the faintest idea how to help a non-writer write the story of her life.

Daniel suggests writing in small sketches, tiny vignettes of a few sentences. In addition to genealogical and family life stories -- circumstances of birth, favorite toys, stories about siblings and grandparents -- she suggests topics such as:

  • Where were you on important days in history?
  • Accomplishments of which you are the most proud
  • Children and the things they say
  • Inventions
  • Brief encounters

Continued on next page: Writing Personal Letters for Senior Citizens




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