Encouraging the Elderly to Journal: It's Never Too Late
By David L. Russell
Well it's been a while since I put out a Journaling Life newsletter, and I have to say it's great to start back at it. I struggle at times with deciding what to write about each month because I don't believe writing about fluff is very interesting to most people. I suppose a journaling web site should contain material that is helpful and interesting enough to keep people in the site for more than thirty seconds. There is plenty of material out there for people to harvest in order to help them write better, and our site has plenty of tools as well, and we trust that it has been helpful to you all.
I've already written about getting children into journaling (really any kind of writing), and I still make that a major focus, but what about getting adults, especially elderly adults into journal keeping? Think of the wisdom and insight that is lost when the elderly pass on without leaving some of it behind. I guess I could include adults of all ages in this discussion, but the older we get, the less time we have (another brilliant insight into the obvious), and I believe we need to start with the elderly. The treasures many of them have to share are worth more than the material goods they will leave behind.
A friend of mine used to be the world's most enthusiastic journal fanatic (at least he seemed to be) and often spoke of meetings he would have with people in several retirement communities in Florida. Apparently, he would set up meetings with the people living in these communities, and have a little talk and presentation about journaling. Most of the people he met with had never thought about it, but now in their 70s and 80s, they were being sparked and challenged to think about the value of recording their thoughts and ideas. I most cases it worked like a charm.
Some of the older people I've spoken with don't think they have much to say, or much insight to give, but we all need to keep in mind that it's not necessary to for us to be literary geniuses to have insight. Every generation has a responsibility to pass on what it has learned to younger generations, and whether we know it or not, we do pick up bits of wisdom throughout the course of our lives. Some people seem to have an abundance of it, while others very little, but there is always something to pass on regardless. Those who have an abundance of insight tend to be more reflective people, and often they are readers and thinkers who can scrap the marrow out of areas many of us can't see.
Another friend of mine likes to collect journals and diaries from people he doesn't even know. Typically he's found them at used book stores, garage sales, estate sales, and auctions. He once read me an entry from a diary written by a dairy farmer in Wisconsin in 1907. This farmer described his working conditions, the names of his cows, and a little bit about the hoi polloi of his community. There wasn't a great deal of wisdom articulated, but you could get a glimpse into simpler times and his words painted pictures of what it might have been like in those days. I've said it before, but I'm a wisdom junkie, and I tend to look for insights from anything I read. I want to know the essence of life and to find ways to live it well. Regardless of how smart we believe we are, or how fluently we handle the language, we all have a story to tell, and all stories contain bits of insight that we often don't even know we're passing on.
I really enjoy spending time with older folks and for those with the capacity to still write, I always encourage them to record their thought s about life, especially their own life. I've given this much greater thought since my father entered a nursing home for rehabilitation for a severe injury he sustained a few weeks ago. Many of the people in this home are beyond help insofar as they are incapacitated in mind, body, or in some cases, both. I have to believe that within these homes, there exists a gold mine of wisdom and insight about life, but sadly it seems that too often these people are forgotten.
Writing is a great way to improve the thought process, and it bows out the cobwebs, so-to-speak, that can collect due to inactivity at any age. I also think that writing gives people a purpose and something to look forward to from day to day.
If you have elderly people in your life, try to get them to record their thoughts about life, and share some of their insights. If they are too old to write, or perhaps too weak to do so, try recording them. Generate a list of questions that will get them talking about the past. For many elderly people, memories are all they have left, and I have found that they often come alive when they are asked about their life. If you want to see a wonderful example of this, watch the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and you'll see what I mean.
I will be putting a list of questions on the Journaling Life web site that you might want to utilize for any discussions you have with the elderly. They are great for generating great life stories, and also if you choose to record their stories.
I trust you all had a great holiday season, and we wish the best to you in the coming New Year.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2004 - David L. Russell
About the Author
David Russell completed his MA in Philosophy from the University of Detroit, and his PhD in History, Religion and Philosophy at the Michigan State University. He currently serves as the CEO of Westvon Publishing
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| Some other articles by David L. Russell|
|Teaching Children to Journal|
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