We are living amongst a treasure trove of history. Living, breathing libraries of knowledge, experiences, perspectives, and culture.
This history is embodied within the elderly that surround us each day whether in our personal lives as loved ones and family members, or as neighbors or the ones we serve in our senior communities.
Many of our seniors have vivid memories of the past and of their childhood; however, these memories are being lost every day. As such, many senior communities and groups are trying to preserve those memories while these same seniors are still with us.
Preserving memories and experiences enable us to capture the wisdom of our living libraries before they pass away.
“When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” -African proverb
TO KNOW IS TRENDY
In the last decade or two, we have seen the development of a new appreciation of the past and of our cultural heritage. People search for “roots” and prepare genealogies to fulfill an apparent need for a sense of historical continuity.
Many community leaders have come to realize that our senior population is an excellent source of information about the past. Their individual lives span most of a century, and there is much to be gained from stories of their lives. The stories of these lives, told from the perspective of many years of living, have meaning now and in the future.
If these stories can be recorded, your community (and your families) can capture for posterity the historical facts and the human interest element of these lives (for example, feelings about growing up in that time and place). A collection of life accounts can be a valuable resource for understanding the history and special culture of where you’re from.
WHAT IS ORAL HISTORY?
You may have noticed that a number of historical associations, women’s groups, and other community groups recently have begun recording on tape the life stories of their older citizens. Historians have long been interested in learning about earlier times from older persons through a method known as oral history. Oral history refers to the tradition of recording facts of a historical nature relevant to a time and a particular setting.
Unlike other methods of record keeping, oral histories provide a personal account of pivotal events from individuals who experienced them first-hand.
Oral history helps us understand how individuals and communities experienced the forces of history, preserving for future generations a sound portrait of who we are in the present and what we remember about the past.
OUR SENIORS OFFER A WINDOW INTO LOCAL HISTORY
Ever stroll down the street and wonder to yourself, “I wonder what this stroll would have looked and felt like 80 years ago?”
Odds are, you know someone who could shed light on that exact question. It might be your grandmother or a Great Uncle; perhaps your elderly neighbor or someone you used to work with. Or, if you work within a senior living community, the majority of your resident population could offer great insight into that inquiry.
The elder citizens of any community are the only persons old enough to have experienced and to recall the past (for example, blacksmithing activities in your town at the turn of the century or the first time an automobile appeared in the community). They have also lived long enough to have a historical perspective on the past.
Many older citizens will be willing and honored to share their past with you in an oral history interview. Being provided a platform to tell their story, in their words, offers a sense of purpose and importance; it allows them to connect on a deeper level with those around them and shed light into who they are, building confidence and self-awareness.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
A FEW QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED
- Let’s begin with the beginning. You were born in what year? Where?
- Was your family living on a farm, in a village, or in town?
- Which child were you? (first, only, etc.)
- If you would think back to those early days as you were growing up, what are some of your earliest memories of the town?
- What did your father do? Can you give me a few details on his work? What are your earliest memories of him?
- What are some of your other recollections of your father when you were a child, up to, say, 10 years old?
- Now, could you tell me about your mother and her role within the home?
- Let’s look at you, as you look at yourself, as a child growing up. In what ways do you think you might have been different from your brothers and sisters or from other children that you knew well?
- What are your memories about the War (or the Depression, or another event of concern to your oral history project)?
- What was this town like, as you remember it, during the Depression?
CAPTURE IT BEFORE IT’S GONE
The grave importance of oral history is that it’s got to be captured before it’s gone. The word gone can mean different things, but generally, in this instance, it refers to your loved one passing away or their memory fading before you’ve had the opportunity to sit with them and either audio or video record or write down their words.
We can get stuck in the mindset of “I’ve got time” when reality says, we don’t.
This is your encouraging nudge to sit across a table from your favorite senior and, with their permission, jot down some of their history.
Nightingale Healthcare is a privately held, family-owned healthcare management company located in picturesque Bellingham, Washington. Founded in 2014, it has been our mission to serve the communities in which we are located with superior skilled nursing and assisted living services. Our patient-centered approach to care incorporates individualized care plans alongside an unmatched level of compassion, patience, and love.
We proudly operate nursing communities throughout Washington and Oregon. For more information about our nursing communities and the services we provide, please visit our website or contact Nightingale Healthcare directly at 360-656-6609.