Recently, Bill Randall of St. Thomas University (Fredericton) told AHB "aging well requires a good strong story" (see AHB, November/December 2007). Randall said, "Our story may be the most precious possession we all have, especially the older we grow."
In addition, Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, has found the desire to tell one’s story is a nearly universal part of the experience of aging.
Today, increasing numbers of older people are writing down their stories, sometimes egged on by children or grandchildren. For some, getting started can be a problem. Yet helpful resources abound today. Among them: The Association of Personal Historians and notable books by Christina Baldwin and Tristine Rainer.
According to Christina Baldwin in Storycatcher (New World Library), each of us is a natural-born storyteller and "storycatcher". Baldwin, a pioneer in personal writing, coaches the reader in both arts in 10 engaging chapters. Each chapter ends with a series of open-ended questions.
Here are some examples:
In Your Life as Story
Tristine Rainer opens her book with this stricking image: "Imagine you could trace your course through time and space as an astronomer tracks a planet’s orbit or a comet’s path. Imagine you could get back far enough to see the shape of your life"
In Your Life as Story (Tarcher), Rainer provides a practical, thorough and inspiring guide.
Drawing on her background in fiction, nonfiction and film, she invites readers to probe below the surface of everyday experiences and to "come to terms" with the story lived so far.
Here are some suggestions from the book:
Choose a favourite photo from the period you wish to write about. And ask yourself questions such as:
Play a favourite song or piece of music:
And if you are interested in meeting other storytellers, you can join a worldwide community at Storycatcher Network.