The intimacy that we enjoy with our parents and grandparents often leaves us with the feeling that we know them inside and out. The relationships that we’ve cultivated with them over our lifetime can give us the false sense that we’ve always known them. This is largely because they’ve been there the entirety of our lives.
But what about the lives they led before we were born? Which life choices affected their lives, shaping them into the people they are today? What were their hopes? Their dreams? What did they most regret? These are the kinds of questions that often go unasked.
In reality, many of us are remiss and forget to ask them about their lives, and this is even more accurate the older they become. Asking our elders questions about their past is a great way to grow closer to them. And, some questions bring pleasant memories, and they never get tired of sharing their answers.
Here’s our brief list of questions to ask seniors to get to know them more and build a stronger bond.
There’s more than meets the eye when our seniors go to reflect on their experiences. What may sound like an appeal to nostalgia or boasting about a time when things were better is a therapeutic exercise that should be encouraged.
Dr. Robert N. Butler is a prominent psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize winner. He delved into the reasons behind seniors having an increased desire for reminiscing as they aged as early as 1963. Through his research, Dr. Robert N. Butler developed a term called “life review,” which describes elders’ reflections on their experiences.
Dr. Robert N. Butler would go on to note that society is not so forgiving with the process of aging; people overwhelmingly have negative attitudes towards aging and, more times than not, undervalue the unique perspectives of the elderly.
Far too often, recollected memories are shucked off and regarded as senile rambling when they should be heard and encouraged.
Dr. Robert N. Butler would discover that life reviews, especially when done in groups or one-on-one settings, were quite therapeutic. Sessions such as these empower elders to indulge in their memories while sharing them with the people that they care about.
It’s an opportunity for them to pass on their wisdom, better understand their lives, and emotionally connect with those around them productively. Finally, it grants them a cathartic path towards achieving peace with unresolved conflicts from the past.
Seniors who are suffering from varying levels of impairment benefit tremendously from structured reminiscence. Professionals who care for the elderly often use activities and even props to conjure up memories to spur on productive conversations. Music, photographs, special memorabilia and movies are some tools used to trigger their recollections.
Research has shown that structured reminiscence as group therapy can improve self-esteem and reduce symptoms of depression and increase life satisfaction.
Reminiscing with your beloved seniors is essential to their emotional health. We’ve compiled the following list of questions that elder care experts and editors believe focus on the most crucial aspects of one’s existence.
This list will help you begin your very own structured reminiscing session with your elder loved ones by spurring productive conversations that you’d enjoy talking about. Be sure to use scrapbooks, music, old photo albums, TV shows, or other meaningful and nostalgic material to better facilitate the discussion.
Finally, impress upon the rest of your family of all generations the importance of preserving your family’s history through these critical conversations. More than likely, they will gain a newfound appreciation for their elders in the process.
When thinking of questions to ask seniors, it’s necessary to remember that there are lots of questions that you could propose. For example, you could suggest queries about when they were younger, your family’s history, their favorite food, etc. Whatever the case may be, sprinkle in different kinds of questions to have a well-rounded Q&A session.
This question should give you an idea of what kind of environment the person was raised in. Therefore, the conversation should flow into the area and even how it has changed over time. Perhaps you can ask them if they’ve ever been back to that location since they left.
This is a good question to allow them to recall their younger selves’ mental state and capabilities. For most people, having their first job is monumental. This conversation can seamlessly flow into questions about their favorite job, what they were good at, memorable co-workers and more.
Questions About Family History
Asking about family history can open doorways about where they came from.
This kind of question can open up a world of untapped family history. If they don’t know but want to learn more about their family’s history, you can suggest a service like Ancestry.com to explore together.
This is a great moment to learn more about family members that you may have never met before. It’s also an excellent time to see which relative they felt they had the most similarities with regarding temperament and looks.
This is a chance to hear about one of the most significant people in their world. Questions about weddings, favorite personality traits, and was it love at first sight, will probably arise in this conversation.
These questions can teach you about what we all must experience.
This is a chance to pick their brains and enrich yourself with their knowledge. Make sure to ask about the stories behind those lessons.
The person who influenced them the most will give you insight into what shaped their behavior and opinions growing up and possibly until now.
Here’s a fun question that allows you to see where and at what time was life most enjoyable for them.
Questions about values can help you establish what is important in your life as well as theirs.
This answer may refer to a wedding day, a child’s birth, or even a career achievement. Whatever the case may be, don’t forget to ask them why that was their choice.
This question may spur on a sad or solemn conversation. However, doing so will allow you to honor them in the best way possible.
Our parents’ and grandparents’ history are so vital that we miss out on the best parts of them without it. From their history, we gain insight into who they were. Simultaneously, we’re able to better understand ourselves with the knowledge that they enlighten us with.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn and spend quality time with the ones you love. It’ll be your turn one day as well!