Written collaboratively by Andrea Bjornestad and Leacey Brown.
How many of you sit around during the holidays and listen to stories shared by your loved ones, such as grandparents or parents? Have you witnessed the emotions expressed by your loved ones? Listened to the details of the story? Even if you have heard the story before, it is important for you to be an attentive listener, because reminiscing serves a purpose in older adulthood.
Reminiscence involves sharing thoughts and feelings of one’s experiences to recall and reflect upon important events within one’s life. The ability to recall and reflect helps older adults remember who they used to be in order to help them define their identity in the current moment. The stories of the past provide a source of affirmation, hope, and belief that their legacy will be preserved.
Mental Health Benefits
In addition to improving self-identity, reminiscing may also protect against depression and loneliness. In a study of 47 nursing home residents, a reminiscence group demonstrated improvements in depression and loneliness upon completion of various exercises including sharing memories, life events, family history, and personal accomplishments (Franck, Molyneaux, & Parkinson, 2016). Overall, older adults may thrive from human interaction and meaningful conversations.
To initiate reminiscence in your loved ones, you may want to become creative in sharing memories. Creative ideas may include creating photo albums, scrapbooks, or memory boxes, discussing historical items such as toys or antiques, role playing short scenes from their past, listening to vocal or instrumental music, and recording oral histories or autobiographies. No matter which creative idea you choose, you are helping your loved ones solidify their current identity while feeling valued and appreciated.
Franck, L., Molyneaux, N., & Parkinson, L. (2016). Systematic review of interventions addressing social isolation and depression in aged care clients. Quality of Life Research, 25(6), 1395-1407.