WellSpan Home

Sharing Memories With Older Adults

Topic Overview

Sharing memories (sometimes called life review or reminiscence) helps older adults relive past events in their lives. By sharing memories, older adults can explore their thoughts and feelings about the past. They can put their past experiences in perspective with what is happening to them in the present or what is expected to happen in the future.

Usually it is easy to start a conversation with someone about past events in his or her life. Sometimes older people say they don't remember much about their past. They may also say that what happened to them is not important, because they don't want to bore someone else with their memories. You may need to encourage an older person and let him or her know that you are genuinely interested in hearing about his or her life.

When people start talking about their past, they often remember more and more experiences. After the person starts talking, there may be little left to do except encourage him or her to explain things in more detail or to ask questions about specific events or people.

To encourage an older adult to talk about the past:

  • Show your interest in the person by sitting in a relaxed manner, looking at the person, and nodding your head often. This lets the person know that you want to and have time to listen.
  • Ask for a story. Use an open-ended statement to encourage the person to share a story. You can say, "Tell me what it was like when you went to high school (first got married, started your family, started your business)." Using the words "tell me" lets the person know that you want to hear a story.
  • Ask for clarification about things you don't understand. "I don't understand what you mean. Can you tell me more about that?"
  • Show that you are following the conversation by summarizing what the other person has just told you. You might say something like, "So, after high school you and Amy got married, but you didn't live together because she was taking care of her mother and you were needed on the farm."
  • Ask how the person feels about the subject under discussion. For example, if the person has described a snowstorm that occurred when he or she was 10 years old, you might ask, "Were you afraid when it snowed for 4 days and you were without electricity?"
  • Try not to ask questions that require only a one-word answer such as "yes" or "no."

Sharing memories and stories about past events may cause some anxiety or sadness for the person who is grieving. If you notice that an older adult looks anxious or sad, mention this and ask if he or she wants to continue with the story. Most of the time, experiencing an emotion helps the person who is grieving.

If the older person looks as if he or she is getting anxious or upset, you may need to stop the conversation. You can say, "You look like you are getting more and more upset (anxious). Let's stop talking for now and talk about this later. You may need some time." After you say this, sit with the person for a short time to show that you care about him or her.

Sharing memories with older adults can be an enriching experience for both of you. The person feels accepted and cared for. You may learn some things about the person that you didn't already know and that help you better understand his or her reactions to situations, including loss. Also, the lessons you learn by listening to another person's experiences and how he or she handled them may help you in the future when you have similar experiences.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerGayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 6, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×