The benefits to elderly people of storytelling/sharing memoirs or life stories
Based on evidence, the benefits to elderly people, of telling or sharing their life story, or parts of their life story, are as follows.
An elderly person’s happiness can be improved at the time that they are telling their stories to a life stories documenter for any of the following reasons.
- they are recalling memories – including childhood and happy memories
- they are being listened to while they are telling their stories
- their stories are being recorded and will be documented so that their life story can later be shared with others, as a self-published book, or a video
- they are doing something worthwhile and of value to not only them but their families and future generations.
Feeling of achievement
For anyone, holding their first self-published book in their hands gives a feeling of real achievement. For an elderly person, especially a person who has never published a book before, telling their stories and having their stories documented and compiled into a book or film to share with current and future family generations is a fantastic achievement. Knowing their family and friends, and future generations, will be able to listen to and know their story, can produce a great feeling of achievement and pride in themselves.
If any person, including an elderly person, is suffering from sadness, grief or a mental illness, such as depression or dementia, regular storytelling sessions where they can sit with a life stories writer who is documenting their story can be very helpful in improving their mood. Similarly, listening to others read their memoir back to them can make them calmer and increase their happiness, especially if their stories are about early childhood or other happy memories.
In my experience of producing life stories and memoirs for my clients, family members who have read their book have said to the storyteller that they now understand them far better; and for some, self-publishing their memoir has led to closer relationships between the storyteller and their family members.
There is a term for the ways in which storytelling sessions with a life stories writer can improve elderly people’s quality of life: “reminiscence therapy“.
Excerpt from Dying, or ageing with grace: “Personal historians—those of us who help others tell or write their life stories, their family stories, or their organization’s stories—know… and research increasingly tells us, that life story writing and reminiscence can improve the mood and quality of life for adults with more years behind than ahead of them.”
More information about using memoir/life stories for healing
Here is a list of books about value of memoir writing to assist healing, and the craft of memoir/life story writing: Memoir, healing and self-understanding.
Here are some more articles relevant to this topic:
- Beneficial aspects of life story and legacy activities
- Positive outcomes of documenting life stories for people with PTSD
- Self-published life stories told/written by elderly clients which we have documented and produced as self-published books: A life: I am what I am; Hold your head up high; My story.
- About the process we use to scribe and self-publish your spoken life story: Scribing and writing life stories.
Copyright image: Sally-Anne W Kane.
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