As activity directors, we know how much seniors love to tell stories about their family and their past. Who doesn’t remember their grandparents recounting their childhood adventures and reminiscing about the past? Helping your seniors better understand their family and pass that history on to their children and grandchildren will be exciting and enriching for both seniors and their families.
Perhaps more so than any other country, family history in the United States is a fascinating mix of different races and cultures across the years. Whether a family has lived in the US since before the Revolutionary War or they emigrated here in recent years, every family is a unique thread in the tapestry of the American culture. Helping your residents better understand where they fit will be fascinating not only for them, but for their families for years to come.
A starting point to encourage genealogical research is to help seniors document what they already know about their family roots. Because younger family members are less likely to know as much about their past, helping seniors document their family tree and their favorite pieces of family lore will be an invaluable gift to pass on to younger generations.
If you find that your seniors are interested in learning more about their genealogy, consider organizing events to help them do so. One way to do so is bringing in an outside expert to host a talk or training. An expert in the field of genealogy will have many helpful tips to offer your seniors on researching and documenting previous generations of family history. In addition to getting your residents excited about this research, an expert will be able to guide them to the best resources to use. Alternately, consider organizing an event yourself to walk seniors through how to use some of the popular genealogy websites and software. Even if you’re not an expert yourself, educate yourself on the basics so you can get your seniors started.
In addition to group presentations, consider making yourself available to seniors on an individual basis. Set aside time for anyone who wants to meet with you for more assistance. This could mean helping them dig further into genealogical research, or it might mean listening to stories and helping document them so that they’ll have interesting material to pass on to the rest of their family.
How do you encourage your seniors to share their family history?