Many of us remember how much fun it was to create a family tree when we were in elementary school. They were usually simple projects created when a tree was drawn on poster board and leaves that represented each family member were glued on. But it was a fun way to learn about people in our family we hadn't heard of before.
As we grow older, exploring our genealogy and documenting our family’s history takes on greater significance. For seniors, passing treasured stories on to loved ones helps the family elder feel as if they are leaving a legacy.
When it comes time to document the family’s history and journey to the present day, involving several generations offers benefits for all.
Intergenerational bonds are important in helping older adults feel involved and connected. And there is mounting evidence that shows how relationships between elders and the younger generation can benefit both.
- Children who share a strong bond with an older adult typically have more confidence and higher self-esteem. They are less likely to get in to trouble with drugs or alcohol or to skip school. The relationship also gives the child or teen an advisor to turn to when they aren’t ready to talk with a parent about an issue they are facing.
- Older adults also reap many rewards from intergenerational activities and friendships. One is a sense of joy. Being around the younger, often livelier generation of the family can lift the spirits and boost mood. Having a younger person around can also help seniors stay more active and fit. Grandparents often say having a grandchild provides the benefits of parenthood without the drawbacks of parenting.
One way to bring the two generations together in a meaningful way is to create a journal or scrapbook that documents the family’s life.
Telling Your Family’s Story in Words and Photos
Journaling and scrapbooking are two popular hobbies for people of all ages. When you combine them to tell a family’s story, it can lead to more meaningful connections.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Decide how far back you want your family journal to go. Will it start with the grandparents? The great-grandparents? Once you decide, you can spend a few minutes laying out your family tree on blank paper.
- Encourage your senior loved one to share their favorite stories and life events. These can provide the framework for creating your journal.
- Also spend time going through old photos together as a family. Make copies of those that represent significant milestones: a grandparent in a military uniform during a time of war, wedding photos, graduations and school photos.
- Consider what additional mementoes or treasures you might also want to include. Ideas might be a copy of your grandmother’s popular apple pie recipe or a button from a child’s christening gown. These types of objects can be easily incorporated in to a scrapbook.
- Think about how you want your family history journal to flow. Or will you dedicate a page to each branch of the family tree? Will pages be centered on the photos you want to include? Will you type copy on a computer and print it out to glue on to pages in your scrapbook journal? Or will the two generations working on the project tell the story in their own handwriting?
- Once you have a plan for your journal, head to the craft store to pick up supplies. Remember, you don’t have to buy the most elaborate or expensive scrapbook to bring this project to life. The pictures and the stories will tell the tale. A scrapbook, paper and glue are the minimum supplies you will need. But you can also buy scissors with decorative edges, colorful scrapbook paper, stickers in different themes, fabric and more. Tip to save money: many of the larger craft stores have coupons on their websites that you can use in the store.
One final suggestion is to make this an on-going project. Don’t try to do it all in a day or even a week. Encourage the two generations of your family to work on this a little each week, and to continue to add to the journal in the months and years ahead.
Not only will the journal become a cherished family heirloom, but the time spent together will allow your children and parents to build lasting bonds.
Live Well at Benchmark Senior Living
Living well as you grow older relies on a variety of factors. They range from nutrition and exercise to friendships, social activities and support with daily activities. We extend an open invitation to you and the senior you love to visit the Benchmark Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!