After thinking about it and putting it off for years, Leo finally decided to make that interview video with his grandmother. Born in 1929, the year the stock market crashed and the clouds of the Great Depression gathered, she would live through that economic crisis, life without antibiotics, the Second World War, assassinations, protests, terrorism, the space race, the civil rights movement and the computer age. She remembered the first electric refrigerator and the first TV set she ever saw. She had been the first person she knew to fly in an airplane and travel outside the country. She had even met two presidents.
Even at her advanced age, her mind was clear and her memory precise. This would be the video that Leo and his children and theirs would cherish as the official record of the family and as a glimpse into the history of the 20th century.
Leo was testing out his video equipment when the phone rang.
The interview would never happen.
While visiting elderly loved ones, start a conversation
When families gather for the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to learn about our elders’ life experiences. It doesn’t have to be a major video production and it doesn’t have to be a formal interview. But having these conversations can be very enlightening and can express to an aging loved one that their life and their story are valued.
Here are some starting points for this discussion that we’ve collected from our senior care experts—the caregivers many of you have come to know through our in-home care services. Not all of these questions will be relevant for your family, and you’ll likely think of others. But if you’re worried about where to start or how to keep the conversation going, these might be helpful.
- Tell me your full name and when and where you were born.
- Do you know why you were given that name?
- Tell me about your parents and grandparents.
- What about your brothers and sisters?
- What happened to them?
- What was your home like growing up?
- Did you have a nickname growing up?
- Tell me about your friends.
- What was the first trip you took?
- What was your first car?
- What was your favorite subject in school/high school/college?
- Were you ever in the service?
- What did you do in the service?
- What was your first job?
- What was your favorite job?
- When you were my age, what were you doing?
- What’s your earliest memory?
- What kind of music did you like?
- How did you and your spouse meet?
- How did you know you were in love?
- What was your first date?
- What did you find challenging during the first years of your marriage?
- What was your secret for staying together?
- What were your children like when they were little? When they were my age?
- What were holidays like when you were young?
- What were holidays like when your children were young?
- What were some of your hobbies growing up?
- What do you enjoy now?
- What are your hopes for your family?
- What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your life?
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For many people, this time of year is the only chance they have to see their whole family in one place. So even if you don’t make a video of the encounter for posterity’s sake, I encourage you to seize the opportunity to have this conversation with your elderly family members. Make an effort to help your young ones get to know their grandparents. This is a great chance for them to appreciate the life experiences and the wisdom of their older relatives.