Preserving the Life Stories of our Seniors

Preserving the Life Stories of our Seniors

Many families today are discovering and preserving one of life’s greatest treasures…the stories in the hearts and minds of our parents and grandparents. In our digital age, more and more families are saving their cherished family memories in digital formats like hard drives and DVDs. They have recognized the value of recording these stories for themselves, their children, and generations to come.

The art of getting these stories has taken on many forms. is a website where a loved story can be traced through genealogy. helps store a loved one’s physical memories of old film, photos, slides, and tape through digitization. StoryCorps is an independently funded 501(c)(3) organization. Its mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

In 1994, Spielberg funded a project to interview 50,000 Holocaust Survivors around the world. I worked on that project interviewing and recording the stories of those seniors. I was so emotionally moved by those stories that I started my company, Personal History Interviews, where we interview seniors one-on-one, and capture their unique memories.

When we encourage our aging loved ones to remember their past and talk about their memories and feelings, it validates the importance of their life’s experiences and strengthens family bonds. It reveals previously unknown facets of their character and past, helping us better understand who we are, where we are, and how we got here.

Through their own words, they are able to relive the accounts of their lives and experience a full range of emotion. These are not just the heroic stories of war or the building of a business empire. They are the real stories of struggle, failure, heartbreak, success, and love.

When you are ready to discover the treasures of your family, there are two major factors to consider when selecting a professional interviewer/videographer:

  • They have the best equipment. Their cameras, microphones, and lighting are going to give you the highest quality results. Remember, these treasured memories are going to last for generations to come and they should be preserved in the best possible manner. This is no time for the do-it-yourselfer!
  • They have the background and experience in working with and recording seniors. They have a plan with the best questions to ask to gain more insight into your loved one. Plus, having a non-family member in charge provides a blank page for stories to flow, which leads to capturing more memories that a family member may have not considered.

As we age, our memories not only seem more valuable, but more vivid. For many wistful seniors, the events of 60 years ago may be clearer than the day before. I encourage you to record these stories while loved ones are able and healthy enough to tell them.

Their stories are incredible!

Contributed by:
Dan Gelfond
Personal History Interviews

The Gift of Being There… Visiting Others During the Holidays

The Gift of Being There… Visiting Others During the Holidays

With the holidays, we all seem to get caught up in getting “just the perfect gift” for everyone on our list. Let’s not forget: even though giving material gifts can be very caring and thoughtful, sometimes the best gift of all is just being there for those that are not able to come visit us.

When I was growing up, one of my fondest memories was visiting “folks”, who couldn’t get out to call on us, with my parents.  As a young boy, I remember making home-made gifts and presenting these with much approval to those we were visiting. I certainly felt loved on these visits and looking back, I am quite certain that our visit just might have made the real positive difference in those individuals’ holiday. I have tried to carry on that tradition with children and grandchildren: visiting those who are unable to leave their home to visit with others.

An AARP study reports that 20-25% of all individuals over the age of 75 have some degree of limited activity that prevents them from freely visiting with others, outside of their home. In addition, seniors suffer a higher rate of depression during the holidays, many times due to lack of interaction with others.  For seniors, unable to leave their home, a visit from friends, neighbors and family most likely will rank high on their “wish list” this year.

You never know what a blessing of goodwill you can be to someone else this holiday season.  So be sure to add to your gift list “the gift of being there” this holiday season. One thing you can be sure of, your gift of visiting others will keep on giving for a very long time to come! 

Happy Holidays and Happy Visiting!

Helping Seniors Fight Crime and Stay Safe

Helping Seniors Fight Crime and Stay Safe

Older people are often targets for robbery, purse-snatching, car theft, or a number of scams. During a crime, an older person is more likely to be seriously hurt. But, even though there are risks, don’t let the fear of crime stop you from enjoying life. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that can help you fight crime and stay safe.

Being Safe at Home

  • Do make sure that your locks, doors, and windows are strong and cannot be broken easily. Make sure they are locked—both when you are in the house and when you’re away.
  • Do make a list of your expensive belongings. You might even take pictures of the most valuable items. Store these papers in a safe place.
  • Don’t open your door before you know who’s there. Look through the peephole or a window first.
  • Don’t keep large amounts of money in the house.
  • Do get to know neighbors. Consider a Neighborhood Watch Program.

Being Street Smart

  • Do try to stay alert. Walk with a friend. Stay away from unsafe places like dark parking lots or alleys.
  • Do keep your car doors locked at all times and park in well-lit areas.
  • Don’t open your car door or roll down your window for strangers.
  • Do carry your purse close to your body and across your chest.
  • Don’t resist a robber. Hand over your cash right away if confronted.

Being Safe with Your Money

  • Do have your monthly pension or Social Security direct-deposited.
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash. Put your wallet and cash in an inside pocket.
  • Don’t keep your check book and credit cards together. A thief could use the card to forge your signature.

Fighting Fraud

Older people may be victims of frauds like con-games in areas such as home repair, insurance, telephone, or internet scams. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to hang up on telemarketers. You can decline an offer.
  • Don’t give any personal information over the phone unless you were the one who made the call.
  • Don’t be fooled by deals that seem too good to be true. They probably are. Beware of deals that ask for a lot of money up front and promise you more money later. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to get more information before doing business with them.

Avoiding Identity Theft

How can someone steal an identity? Use your name, Social Security, or credit card without your okay is called identity theft, and it’s a serious crime. Tips to protect yourself:

  • Do keep information about your checking account private. Put all new and cancelled checks in a safe place, report any stolen checks right away, and carefully look at your monthly bank account statement.
  • Do shred everything that has personal information written on it.
  • Do be very careful when buying things online. Websites without security may not protect your credit card or bank account information. Look for information saying that a website has a secure server before buying anything online. (It will have https://, not http:// in front of it).
  • Do check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to learn to protect yourself from common online scams that can trick you into revealing your personal or financial information.

By National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health


Summer Activities for Seniors

Summer Activities for Seniors

Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn’t have to be a distant memory for elders. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.

The Benefits of Getting Outside
A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people, and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities
When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.

Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild’s soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.

Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.

Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.

Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.

Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short, or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.

Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds, or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.

Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance, or remember to bring your own.

Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.

Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.

By Caren Parnes
Contributor for The Senior’s Choice

 Six Tips for Managing Seasonal Allergies

 Six Tips for Managing Seasonal Allergies

Spring is here, with flowers, grass, and for a lot of us, allergies. If you suspect your allergies are getting worse over time, returning after a long break, or starting for the first time, you may be right. One of the ironies of life is that as we age, our immune systems have more chances to develop adverse reactions to seasonal allergies. Here are some tips to help you survive the season:

1. Use an air conditioner, fan, or humidifier to keep your home cool. Minimize time spent with your windows open.

2. Check pollen levels before you travel. The National Pollen site publishes allergy forecasts just like the weather station. Check areas that you are travelling and try to pick places where the forecast is low.

3. Make sure your doctor knows. Prescription allergy medicine may be more effective for you, and your doctor can make sure that it doesn’t interfere with any other medications you may take.

4. Avoid mowing and gardening as much as possible. If you must, take your medication and prescribed and wear a paper respiratory mask to minimize your exposure.

5. Wearing sunglasses is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent allergens from getting in the eyes. Once someone who has allergies begins rubbing their eyes, they unwittingly spread pollen around.

6. Shower and change after spending time outside to get rid of any allergens that might be in your hair, on your skin, and attached to your clothing.
Source: Matt Newton |

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