Seniors Can Tell their Stories with Scrapbooking

framed photos on mantle in sepia tonesHere at Park Crescent, we’re gearing up for National Skilled Nursing Care Week. The week-long observance, beginning  May 13, will celebrate our unique life stories. The seniors in our lives have fascinating and inspirational stories to tell, if we only listen.

Have you ever asked your mom what was it like coming of age during World War II? Or how much her first car cost? What does your dad think, watching technology evolve at dizzying speeds?

When we embrace our loved ones’ memories and the stories they share, we affirm their dignity and the richness of their experiences. One way for seniors to share their history is by scrapbooking. Creating a scrapbook, or even just one page, can help seniors document and retain their memories. Here are some ideas to get you started on Mom or Dad’s scrapbook project.

Get organized

Before you start, gather all your materials. Compile your loved one’s old photos, newspaper clippings, and sentimental memorabilia. You may want to make high-quality photocopies of them so that they don’t get ruined in the crafting process.

Discuss with your mom or dad how they want to structure the scrapbook. Do they want it to be clean and minimalist, with photos and captions neatly laid out on the page? Or would they rather a hodgepodge of colorful memories and events?

How involved is your parent or loved one going to be in the creation of the scrapbook? Do they want to do it all themselves, work together with a child or grandchild, or give their input while someone else does the creating? One more area to consider is whether you want to use a theme for the scrapbook, such as “life’s journey” or “milestones.”

Based on what you decide, gather your supplies. You don’t need fancy scrapbooking equipment. A simple album or notebook, pretty paper, a pair of scissors, and some adhesive is all you really need. If you plan to make the book a family keepsake, however, you may want to invest in high quality materials meant for scrapbooks. These are acid-free materials that won’t yellow or turn brittle.

Allow Mom or Dad to reminisce

When you first bring in the photos and memorabilia, your loved one may want to spend some time just looking through everything and remembering. Allow them to do this, and keep a notepad handy. Jot down any memories the items bring up; you may want to incorporate them into the layout.

Capitalize on the fine motor workout

Crafting is an excellent way to exercise your mom or dad’s fine motor skills. Hand-eye coordination tends to degrade with age, so this is a great time to practice. Lifting and positioning papers, using scissors, and pasting the elements onto the page all increase your loved one’s dexterity.

Let them do as much of the project themselves as they can, even if it the results are not perfect. On the other hand, if you see they’re getting frustrated from not being able to manipulate the paper, tactfully suggest they rest and continue another time. Exhaustion can exacerbate poor coordination.

Try changing it up

Scrapbooking isn’t the only way to preserve your elderly loved one’s memories. If your loved one is talkative, you can come up with a list of questions to ask over a period of time, and digitally record his responses. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • How did your parents come up with your name?
  • What do you remember most about your mom?
  • What do you remember most about your dad?
  • Did you ever get into trouble as a child? What for?
  • How did you meet your spouse?
  • What was your favorite book/song/movie when you were 16?
  • Did any specific events shape your life?
  • What did you love most about being a parent?

You can also ask about family recipes, traditions, or cultures to start a conversation about the family legacy. Even non-talkative seniors will open up sometimes, so keep your phone handy when you visit so you can record their words when they starts talking.

Remember, your goal is to preserve their rich and varied life experiences, so you can always remember the beautiful and unique human being you were lucky to love.

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