A significant number of studies have stated that writing can benefit mental health in unimaginable ways, whether it means jotting down to-do lists, writing letters, or crafting a fictional story.
In seniors, it’s been proven effective in improving their language and cognitive abilities, doing a significant favor for those at high risk of dementia by preserving memory. That’s why more and more seniors have turned to writing to unwind.
Although there are many forms of writing, the primary purpose is for seniors to retell their stories, look back on their fond memories, and pass down their wisdom and experiences. Writing a memoir is one of those styles with all the above qualities.
A memoir is an excellent tool for many seniors to record their life experiences and reflect on twists and turns that have shaped them. This makes a precious keepsake for their grandchildren and future generations, ensuring their lives live on despite the passage of time.
Scroll down to help your parents craft a legacy by exploring our tips for memoir writing for seniors.
Understanding The Trend of Storytelling and Memoir Writing for Seniors
What Is A Memoir?
A memoir is a non-fictional collection of narratives based on a person’s perspective and personal memories. The term “memoir” is derived from the French word “mémoire” or “reminiscence.”
In the minds of many, memoirs and autobiographies are the same, but the truth is far from it. Although the unified goal is to tell someone’s life story using the first-person perspective, the scope of an autobiography is much larger than a memoir. It can be understood that while an autobiography covers a person’s life from beginning to end, a memoir only records a selective period or an event occurring at any point in life.
Unlike an autobiography focusing on recounting fact-checked life events in chronological order, a memoir encourages the author to express their takes, emotions, and perceptions that they learn from past events, much like a personal essay.
Some popular memoirs include A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway), An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (Chris Hardfield), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers), Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter (Adeline Yen Mah), and more.
Seniors Writing Memoirs: Helpful Tips To Write A Heart-touching Memoir
When searching for tips and guides on how to write a memoir, you might stumble across tons of them on the Internet. However, it is important to note that there are no fixed methods to tell an impactful story.
Writing a memoir is more than just outlining life-changing events. It is also about letting your most hidden thoughts and intimate moments be seen and acknowledged by family and friends — or whoever reads them. Find some tips on memoir writing for seniors below.
Read & Research
Whatever you plan to do, research is an excellent step to prepare you for what you are getting into, whether you are writing a memoir or drafting a life story. Doing research on existing materials helps you learn from the best. It’s crucial to remember that not all memoirs are built the same because writing is a form of art, and art is boundaryless. However, conducting a read first is effective in understanding the structure and format of how a memoir should be written. Most of the time, going in a linear direction (from A to B) is preferred by many, but it can be different for each.
Start with An Assessment Plan
Drafting an assessment plan supports seniors in narrowing down their options when selecting a theme or a topic. As mentioned earlier, a memoir is not listing every single personal experience and event possible — that’s not how a memoir works.
Make a list of several life experiences that draw people in, such as birth, going to school, getting your first job, moving out, getting married, having children, taking your children on the first day to school, etc. Then, assessing possible values and life lessons, you might find the core theme of your memoir along the way.
On top of picking out the theme and topic, figuring out the moral of the story is a must. Ask yourself, “What have I learned from it?” “What is the life lesson from my experience?” or “What message would I like to deliver through my memoir?.” and so on.
Sometimes, you don’t need to write about the best experiences, but the worst, embarrassing, or uncanny moments can have a huge impact on readers’ minds afterward.
Dig A Little Deeper
Since the theme focus is condensed to a single life experience, it is imperative to dig deeper by listing all associating memories. It helps readers connect the dots and leads them to the final purpose of your memoir: the moral of the story. Achieving the core values by bringing up the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why). It allows readers to have a better grasp of what you are trying to tell.
Establish The Story
Alongside theme exploration, thinking beyond is another element to keep a story going forward. Besides associating memories, some events or people have the power to twist your narrative and change the way you see life, making you the person you have become today. A few to consider include parents, siblings, friends, childhood influences, first love(s), first job(s), marriage, children, successes, failures, etc.
This tip helps you create an emotional story while eliminating unnecessary characters and details that might tarnish your story’s natural flow. Ultimately, you want to ensure your story leaves an impression; anyone can walk away with valuable takeaways.
Write The Naked Truth!
A memoir is not a fictional story! Articulating our deepest feelings, mistakes, and failures can be a hard task, but authenticity is the key. Plus, a memoir is not the outlet for you to paint yourself as a saint. Remember, humans make mistakes and redeem themselves repeatedly throughout our lifetime. The most important thing is how you get back on your feet and what you learn from it. That’s why you mustn’t feel ashamed of your spilled beans. People might judge, but let them. But being authentic and keeping the truth alive is essential for showcasing self-reflection and personal growth, helping readers find meaning in your story.
Find Your Voice
Some people believe that they must use a formal voice in the memoir. However, keep it simple with your tone unless you plan to publish your life chunks to the mass public. You can make a draft and check for the grammar later. This gives a natural narrative to your writing. Suppose you have a cheeky personality. In such a case, let’s keep it as it is. There’s no reason to imitate other people’s styles. As every memoir is a unique remark of someone’s life, explore your inner voice and let your individuality shine!
Why does feedback matter? Feedback ensures the storyline goes in the right direction, preventing misleading characters and events from sabotaging the theme. Outside opinions and neutral inputs help seniors see the bigger picture to make the theme more outstanding. Getting as much feedback as possible from friends and family, then circle back to your draft and make tweaks and refinements if necessary.
Memoir Writing Prompts to Consider for Seniors
The topics of storytelling and memoir writing are relatively extensive, meaning seniors can always find something they will love writing about. Read through our list of memoir writing prompts to consider for seniors.
- Talk about your first day at school.
- Describe your childhood bedroom.
- Describe your first love and first date with them.
- Talk about your first heartbreak.
- Who were your favorite teachers?
- Talk about your happiest childhood memories.
- Talk about your first-ever interview and job.
- Talk about your dream job if money isn’t an issue.
- Show your proudest moments and your feelings during that time.
- Talk about the happiest days of your life.
- Talk about the worst days or cringiest moments of your life.
- What is the meaning/story behind your name?
- What would you like to change about yourself?
- Recall your fondest memories.
- What do you want to tell yourself 5 years from now?
- What would you say to your younger self?
- Five pieces of advice you would give to your grandchildren.
- Talk about your deepest fears and how you overcome them.
- List things you are most grateful for today and why?
- Talk about your most favorite holiday memories you had.
- Talk about your favorite memories with your mom/dad.
- Talk about the lowest moments of your life and how you overcome the challenge.
- Talk about your greatest regrets up to date.
- Talk about your scars and how you got them.
If you have questions about memoir writing for seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks Senior Living Communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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