Capturing the Life Stories of Elders

Engages the Mind. Activates Memories

Capturing Your Life Story Benefit All Generations. @Peter Dazeley, Getty Images

“Everyone has a story”. Activity directors know this is true. But how do you draw out the fascinating tales of your residents’ lives in a way which preserves and shares their unique view of history? Capturing the life stories of elders helps to both engage their mind and activate their memories.

Barbara Lee Sherf conducts writing workshops with small groups of residents to produce personalized articles, booklets, books and/or DVDs as mini-biographies to share with family and friends.

Sherf created her business, Capture Life Stories in 2010. It grew from the process of Sherf and her father co-writing a book detailing his years on the rodeo circuit called, Cowboy Mission: The Best Sermons are Lived…Not Preached.

Capture Life Stories has benefits for residents, their families and activity directors at independent retirement communities, assisted living facilities and senior centers.

For the families, the benefits are invaluable - a memory keeping gift that continues to give for generations to come. The basis of the story will likely serve as the person's obituary so that the facility and family are not 'scrambling' when the time comes,” Sherf said.

The costs of the program depend on the depth of the finished product, Sherf said. A group workshop includes 2+ hours on-site and the cost of all handouts. For an additional per person charge, participants will receive a copy of the book, The Cowboy Mission: The Best Sermons are Lived Not Preached.

A facility can choose a six part ongoing workshop series with residents. And a personalized DVD life story,depending on location and length, is another option.

There is another offer for activity directors, Sherf will interview, write, print and frame A Life Story Article. The framed article, usually featuring a new resident, can be placed in a lobby for a week or so to introduce a new resident to the community.

Afterwards the framed article can be given to the resident for their apartment or room.

Capturing Life Stories has been used in retirement communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania. One resident, Lula Pidcock Mohr, whose ancestors were the first settlers in Bucks County, told her story in celebration of her 93rd birthday. One excerpt from Pidcock’s story recalls her childhood memory of what it took to have chicken for dinner during the Great Depression.

“My grandfather would choose a chicken to slaughter and I had to run around the yard and corner it. Then my mother would boil the chicken and she and I would pluck the feathers off of it,” Pidcock said. “We had to make do with what was on the land; growing our own produce, harvesting eggs, and doing the best we could.”

Lisa Seonia, Marketing Director at Spring Mill Presbyterian Village, has seen the benefits to her residents. “Barbara was able to captivate an audience and break down the process of capturing your life story into doable tasks.

Her enthusiasm for the subject is quite apparent and we look forward to having her back again,” Seonia said.

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