Memory Keepers

Time is fleeting. It doesn’t wait for anyone. When we are younger, it doesn’t seem important to make the time with our loved ones really count. I was like that until my parents both suffered from serious illnesses. Somehow the experience of almost losing them, brought me to my senses. I then realized that I needed to make the most of what time we have left.

Preserving Memories

Daddy forgets a lot these days. He doesn’t have full-blown dementia, but his short term memory is getting worse. He’s not alone. Now close to 80, he has plenty of company. An estimated fifty percent of people 85 years and older now suffer from some kind of dementia.  

So how do we make our time memorable when a loved one has memory problems? The best way is to meet them where they do remember. Younger people have lots of future to look to. Older people have more past to remember. Most people with even moderate dementia can remember their childhood and early adulthood. That’s where they’re comfortable. That’s where you can connect with them.


Talking about the past and remembering the good times, is such a blessing. It doesn’t just bless the older person . . . it can bless you. Knowing the family stories and the obstacles that your loved one had to overcome to be successful in life are rich and worthy to be passed down to future generations. Talking about a person’s early life also helps us to understand them better. What great wisdom would be lost if we neglect to know how they became who they are!


My maternal grandmother raised 14 children and all reached adulthood, save one. Her husband was twice her age and long past where he could make a decent living. She is part of me. That is what I am made of. Whenever I feel discourage or that I have too much on my plate, I remember my granny. I recall all she had to do to raise those kids – feed them, cloth them, and without any help. I remember sitting on her bed and asking her why she would marry a man twice her age. I asked about her childhood and my mother’s childhood. I wouldn’t trade those stories for anything in the world.


What stories do your loved ones still need to share? Do you know why they lived where they lived? Do you know what was the happiest time in their life? Do you know what they consider their greatest accomplishment? Do you know what lessons their parents taught them that are still the most important to them? These are all topics that could enrich your life while giving them the time to share on subjects they feel comfortable with.


Our society revels in those who are young, but do we give enough honor to those who have lived good lives and have wisdom to share? Will you be the memory keeper for your family?


Here are a few questions to get you started as the Memory Keeper for your family!


  1. What occupations or roles have you had in life that has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
  2. Why did these roles or occupations seem to be gratifying to you?
  3. What single “seed of wisdom” do you hope to hand down to the next generation?
  4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  5. What was it like when you were first married?
  6. What did your family do for fun when you were young?
  7. What was your first “date” like and who was it with?
  8. When did you first learn to drive and who taught you?
  9. What was the best present you ever received as a child?
  10. What was your wedding day like? What did you wear and were there any catastrophes?

By Karen Everett Watson – gerontologist


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The Magical Joy of Children

Have you ever noticed how your elder’s eyes light up when a child they love enters the room? Children and elders just seemed to have a magical connection. It’s a connection that deserves to be cultivated and a way for you to give joy to your elderly loved one. Children seemed to be drawn to elders. Perhaps they know that older people have so much to give. One thing that elders are happy to give children is their time. In a hurry and rushed world, that is truly a gift. 

The Magical Joy of Children

Do you remember your childhood visits with your elderly loved ones? I think most of us have cherished memories of spending time with our grannies and granddads. I looked forward to every summer because it meant going for a visit to see the grandparents.  

Aging experts are catching on to this great connection. Many are now advocating programs that bring elders and children together. Gerontologists call it “inter-generational connections.” Decades ago, grandparents often lived with their grandchildren and sometimes, even with their great-grandchildren. It makes you wonder just how much our children and elders are missing because they don’t have this time to connect.


The love of so many activities has been fostered through the connection with an aging loved one. How many of us learned to garden, knit, fish, or cook due to the patience and love of an elder? All of us have the need to give and be needed. Seniors value being able to impart the wisdom they’ve earned. Children need that wisdom and connection with older people. It’s a win-win situation.


I’ve experienced firsthand the joy, and perhaps even the healing that children can bring to older folks. My first grandchild was born just before my daddy had to have cancer surgery. Our fears were overwhelming. Daddy is the cornerstone of our family. The only bright light there was during those hard days was Punky. My daughter would bring him to the hospital, so small he was still swaddled in blankets. His bright blue eyes would just make me melt. It truly was magic to watch the pain and dread disappear from my daddy’s eyes when Tara would lay Punky on his bed. I know God sent Punky to give my whole family the hope and joy he brought to our lives. That was 10 years ago. Daddy survived and Punky has thrived. They still have a special connection.


Elders have so much to give to children – their wisdom, patience, love and acceptance. The joy that children bring to elders just cannot be matched. I encourage you to bring that joy to your elderly loved ones. You’ll be facilitating life-long memories, for both the elder and the child. I just imagine that you’ll have a great time, too. Don’t forget to bring out the camera and make these memories last!


Tips for things to do with elders and children –

  1. Have a Tea Party
  2. Go fishing
  3. Draw, paint or color in a coloring book
  4. Look through old photos
  5. Decorate cookies
  6. Plant a pot with flowers or veggies
  7. Read a book
  8. Play checkers
  9. Blow bubbles
  10. Fly a Kite


By Karen Everett Watson– Gerontologist

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