I never had the time to listen!

A friend and colleague of mine, Lauren Scott of Golden Girls Assist, is the principal of a concierge service for the elderly. As well as being a businesswoman working from home, she is also a mother, wife and carer.

She describes well the demands on the Baby Boomer Generation, which she aptly calls the Sandwich Generation.

The trend for having children later in adult life has been growing steadily over the last couple of decades while our parents are living longer, independent lives. It is therefore becoming more common for adults to be sandwiched between caring for their children, as well as supporting their parents. In fact, about 1.5 million middle-aged Australians are included in this demographic. They’re called the Sandwich Generation.

Business owners who work from home are often expected to be able to provide support and help on the spot to family because they are seen as having more flexibility and time to spare than those working outside the home. It is often overlooked that home-based business owners also have to maintain business hours…Our population is getting older and living longer which requires the current sandwich generation to redefine their work life balance…This is particularly pertinent to business owners who need time to focus on their work to keep their businesses productive and profitable.

This got me thinking.

If you work in business, you will have work expectations to fulfil. Whether you work or not, you will still have marriages and friendships to maintain and develop, and probably children to care for. With all the expectation of your older loved ones to do their banking and shopping, take them to medical appointments and even the joy of family celebrations, when do you ever have time to sit down and listen to their stories?

My father has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home. As a doctor, his proudest achievement was delivering over 2,000 babies during 50 years of practice. He repeats this often – but no one around him is listening to him.

Old age makes one invisible and silent. Yet our elders have led remarkable lives – volunteering in their local community, flying planes in the war, running businesses, coaching winning sports teams.

I have been to many funerals of my friends’ parents. After each eulogy, I thought, ‘Gee, I wished I’d known them better. I would have loved to know more about what they did in…’

The fact is that we do lead busy lives. Even at Christmas when we sit, eat, drink and be merry, we tend to pass a plate across to Grandma and give her a present but not have a quiet half hour to ask her about her life.

This is where a professional life story writer can help you. Elderly people, even ones with active social lives, can feel a little lonely. When a life story teller, someone they don’t know, listens with patience, untangles incidents, provokes happy memories, and gives them their full attention, they sit up straighter, their eyes sparkle and the stories pour out. I know – I’ve seen it happen every time I record and write an elder one’s story.

A life story teller will also record things that your family members would forget to ask about, things that you know already and thing aren't worth mentioning or things you don't know. One 90-year-old lady I interviewed spoke of her school uniform including suspenders and stockings. When I asked her if her granddaughter knew what a suspender belt was, she looked astonished - it hadn't occurred to her that that was something unusual in this day and age. (Naturally, we included this in her memoirs.) Have you ever had the time to find out what the colour of your mum's school uniform was? Do you know what your dad did on weekends as a boy? What were their pets? What impressions did they have growing up of school, parents and the world around them? What were their ambitions and were they fulfilled? Do they consider their lives to have been good and successful? Wouldn't you like to know?

Memoir and life story telling has so many benefits. Here are a few:

  • It validates our elders, most important in a society which, unlike many others, has no rite for honouring elders in our community
  • It increases their mental and emotional health
  • It allows them to leave your family a legacy
  • It records local history and culture
  • It inspires others
  • It promotes the teller’s point of view
  • It educates younger generations about other times and places.

It also makes a great Christmas present of the whole family! As there are only three months to Christmas, why not ask our loved one if they’d like to tell their story.

Contact Creative Text Solutions to discuss writing your loved one’s life story.

 

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