As humans, one of our historical characteristics is that we are storytellers! Remember your uncle Leonard who had a story about everything and talked about it at length for hours during every family dinner? Man did that drive you nuts when you were a kid, but now that you’re an adult and he’s gone you would trade anything to hear those stories again.
In an age of mass media, we can create and consume digital content on a whim. One downfall of this phenomenon is the decline of family storytelling. It’s up to us to use technology to our advantage and capture those stories before they’re gone forever, but how?
• Make time for routine sessions – have coffee with your loved one at a set time every week so that they’re primed to let loose a whopper of a tale or two.
• Record the conversation – take your phone out, open the voice memo app, set it down on the table, and get talking! Some people might be turned off by the thought of their voices being recorded, while others may get nervous if you’re sitting there with a pen and pad of paper jotting down everything that they have to say. You know best – just read the room and you’ll figure out the best method for your situation.
• Ask open-ended questions – this one is especially important for people living with memory loss. An open-ended question like “describe what it was like when…” gives them the freedom to roam until they find an answer they were looking for. Don’t sweat the details.
• Start simple – take it easy at first and then work your way up to the more sensitive questions. Maybe there’s an old war story that is difficult for your family member to tell, but you know that nobody wants it to be lost to time. Don’t dive right into that, but rather let it come naturally.
• Save your recordings – technology is lovely, but it will fail in time. Back up your recordings to multiple hard drives. Type your notes and share them with family members. Do whatever you can to see that these stories fall into multiple hands – they’ll be safer that way, and the people you share them with will benefit from your amazing family stories.
Have fun with your family, and preserve your history. Happy storytelling!