We tend to think that only celebrities or important historical figures deserve to have their biographies told, but the truth is that each person contributes a verse to the universal story of life on this planet. Seniors at Chattanooga retirement communities carry with them a lifetime of experience and wisdom that deserves to be shared and preserved.
These stories may revolve around generation common experiences, e.g., war time, economical depression or boom, changes in the structures of family and the evolution of health care and education. We all enjoyed hearing our grandparents talk about one-room schoolhouses, catching dinner on the farm or what it was like to see their first television set. Future generations will enjoy hearing our own accounts of experiencing the Internet for the first time – by then, it will just be something taken for granted the way we view the telephone or running water.
Fort Oglethorpe’s history covers much territory, and a lot of it is preserved for the future, from the 6th Cavalry Regiment Museum to the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. Each citizen is a potential storyteller able to give an account of how the city has grown and changed over time.
Meaningful experiences also make for great stories to share. Losing relatives and friends, changing jobs or living environments, and struggling with an illness or accident all shape the persons we become over a lifetime. It’s important that seniors are able to pass on these stories because they can enhance the understanding of caregivers to appreciate the wholeness of their being.
Some stories will be happy, some funny, some sad. But all are meaningful, regardless of their length or how well they are told. One need not be a masterful writer to tell what happened in a way that’s easy to understand.
In the past, many of these tales have been passed between family members as oral histories around the dinner table, but today technology aids us in capturing our truth, whether it is word processing on personal computers, audio recordings, or video captured on a smartphone.
Where to start? Seniors can talk about anything, really. Road trips, first days of school, learning how to ride a bicycle or deal with a bully. Within these conversations are our defining values that guide us on a daily basis.
Certainly every senior hopes that those values are passed along to the family and traditions carried on rather than abandoned. Some stories may be too painful to tell, even though they carry within them powerful lessons learned.
The point is to express themselves and make sense of their lives through the act of sharing and connecting with others on a whole new level. Chronicling life stories helps seniors reflect on the past and engage in the present.