2. Who’s who? Senior stories connecting generations.
For some, family history is very important. If that’s true of your loved one, an easy way to light up their faces is to pull out the family photo album. Ask them to put names to faces and tell the stories around when and why the photos were taken. Ask about their homes, their jobs, their family members, what life was like in that time and place, connecting generations through those stories.
Young fashionistas might get a thrill of seeing how fashion changed over the decades (and older fashionistas will likely enjoy telling them all about it). Connect the veterans in your life by talking about how and where they served or telling stories from war and survival. And history buffs will love hearing more about the myriad of historical events and discoveries that happened across the 20th Century. Connecting generations through these photos and stories can make family bonds stronger as the lives of grandparents become more relevant to their children and grandchildren.
For those who have family or family of choice in memory care, sharing photos can stimulate memory in those struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In cases where their story is your family story, strong connections can be made in sharing those memories. Do you have a grandmother who was a Suffragette? Share that legacy with the young women of the family, telling the stories of what they did to get the vote for women. Was there an immigrant in your family tree? Share the story of what made them come to the U.S., tell you about their home country, or talk about what they did to get a foothold in their new life. Sharing those daily stories can give younger generations a sense of self, can establish family heritage, and can bring pleasure to the storyteller as well by sparking memories of their place and contributions in life, the relationships they shared and situations that brought them joy.
And for the genealogists in your life, be sure to label the photos with the names of the people in the photos. As any family historian can tell you, knowing the names of people in a photo can be like striking gold. Having photos labeled can also allow caregivers a point of connection, so they, too, can ask for those amazing senior stories.
3. What’s your favorite food? Getting to the heirloom recipes.
Food is one of the common denominators in life, but it can also be one of the easiest things to share. Family heritage can affect your spice palate – from curry to cardamom – and family recipes tell the story of your family heritage. Heirloom recipes are often passed down from one family member to another along with a family story or tradition. And where there’s food, there’s often a story.
Asking about favorite foods or family recipes can lead to discussions on whether your loved one ever grew a garden, whether they are the keepers of family heirloom recipes or whether they traveled to exotic places and ate exotic things (or ate a variation of the same thing for 30 years). No matter your age, food is a connection point. And it’s a connection point we can all share.
Most families have a rotation of meals (sometimes from cherished family recipes) they eat on a regular basis. For some, that means meat and potatoes every meal. For others, exotic spices come into play. And for the keepers of those Southern heirloom recipes, you may be quite familiar with the many different ways to sauce and gravy food.
What drives that meal rotation? Sometimes it’s family heritage. Sometimes it’s driven by family preference. Sometimes it’s driven by what’s available to the family. But do you know the story of why you have ham for the holidays? If you don’t know the story, this can be a great way to connect one generation to another. And asking for easy family recipes can make your life easier.
From cornbread to chimichangas to curries, there are usually favored family recipes to be found – and a story to go along with it. Whether earning a merit badge or just changing up the dinner rotation, talking to your favorite centarian about meals they ate, meals they’ve cooked or meals they’ve loved in their lifetime can lead to hours of enjoyment – for your mind and your stomach.