The Power of Seniors’ Stories
Every senior is a library of experiences and skills. Their stories are a resource during challenging times.
While the events we are experiencing right now may be unique, our senior loved ones have seen the world change around them many times over. Now more than ever, we can look to them as a source of wisdom, strength, and resilience. When seniors share their stories, everyone benefits.
Storytelling is an important part of how we connect with others and share wisdom, especially about life’s challenges. Plus, sharing stories is good for your loved one’s health and your own. Not only will taking an interest in your loved one’s stories help them feel appreciated and valued, positive storytelling can help reduce stress and improve mood and outlook for the teller and the listener.
Best of all, storytelling is natural. In fact, one study showed that up to 65% of conversations are storytelling. All it takes to get people sharing is a little guidance and some positive prompts (see below).
The Benefits of Storytelling for Seniors and Caregivers
Storytelling has both physical and emotional health benefits for seniors and their caregivers. These benefits are all a result of what happens in the brain when someone tells or listens to a story.
First, telling a story requires putting events in order and finding the connections between different experiences and ideas. This mental exercise helps keep minds sharp, and it creates a sense of meaning and purpose, which is closely correlated with overall happiness, especially in seniors.
Second, when a senior tells a story, they re-experience the event emotionally and physiologically. As they tell the story of overcoming a past difficulty, they re-experience positive feelings of confidence and strength. Reminiscing about accomplishments and pleasant experiences can bring sensations of joy and pride into the present.
These positive feelings help to reduce stress and improve outlook, especially during challenging times.
And, it’s not just the storyteller who benefits from all of this positivity. Listening to stories activates the same parts of your brain as if you were experiencing the events of the story. It also stimulates the release of oxytocin, the chemical responsible for bonding and connection with others. Listening to your loved one’s story deepens your connection and makes you feel better, too!
Seniors’ Stories: How to Get Started
Consider setting aside a special time for a conversation, and recording it for posterity. While some people may be a bit self-conscious when they know they are being recorded, most relax once they begin talking about something that is meaningful to them.
Focus on stories of success, strength, and meaning. If your loved one has a story that they tell over and over again, that can be a good place to start. Ask them why! Is it because of how they felt? Did the event change them in some way? The answer might surprise you.
Following are ideas for topics and questions to get a senior loved one talking.
Challenges growing up:
- What was the biggest challenge your family faced when you were growing up?
- How did your family cope?
- Did you think everything would turn out okay then?
- What did you learn from that challenge?
- What national or world event affected your life most? (For example, a political conflict or natural disaster.)
- How did you cope?
- Where did you get your news about it?
- What do you think people today don’t understand about that event or time?
- What was your biggest challenge personally?
- How did you overcome it?
- What is the most important thing you learned from this challenge?
- What is your earliest memory?
- Why do you think that memory stands out?
- What was the best day of your life so far, and why?
- What are you most proud of, and why?
One of the most meaningful ways to look after a senior loved one right now is to listen, and it can benefit you, too. Now is the time to look to them, for their health and for yours.
All of us at Sunnyside Manor wish you the best during this unique time. Stay safe, and take good care!
Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor
Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, we are here to help. Begin with our “Getting Started” guide, or call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.
Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.