TED Conversations

Heather White

Life Story Recorder, Family Echoes


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Is reminiscence good for people over the age of 60?

As we get older it seems that our thoughts naturally tend to flow back to past times - the good, the bad and the ugly. It is universally acknowledged that grandparents spend hours telling (and retelling) their grandchildren stories of their youth.

Jane Fonda's TED Talk focuses on this aspect of life as being a normal, natural and necessary process which is highly beneficial for the mental health and well being of older people.

Reminiscence Therapist make a case that allowing older people to reminisce can reduce depression and delay dementia. It may also help to reunify estranged families, since it is only when people move past life's competitive stage that they are able to reflect on past mistakes and be humble enough to accept responsibility for them, and seek forgiveness. Such scenarios are likely to be highly beneficial to younger family members who will experience the unifying power of honesty, humility and forgiveness.

Hospice workers also report that reminiscence can help dying people come to terms with their life and gain a sense of completion - reducing death anxiety.

What are your experiences of older people reminiscing?

In a world with an increasing older population Is Reminiscence Therapy worth investing in?


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    May 6 2013: I had a good friend in her 80's who would reminisce for hours about her childhood and 20's. It was fascinating to me that she could remember vivid details from 75 years earlier yet I often had to remind her to put her teeth in!
    Her reminiscing could go on for literally hours. While her stories were very interesting there were times that it was extremely frustrating as I didn't want to interrupt her but I really needed to go home or get her home. I came to suspect that my friend wasn't telling me these stories as much as she was engaged in heavy introspection.
    I did love listening to her and in time I came to realize that was my role in her life. Her family was too busy to sit and listen to her so I embraced it. I do believe that she needed to tell those stories, share those times, almost as a form of processing. I learned a lot from her and I am now the keeper of those memories. I have a feeling that I heard things that perhaps she had never shared before. Writing this has reminded me of a few of the incredible doozies she shocked me with! Those were the stories that were worth sitting through...the kind that knocked me off my chair and made me see me see my fragile, eccentric friend for the well-rounded, incredibly experienced, fabulous human being that she was. Here's to you Margaret ~ you would have loved TED!
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      May 6 2013: Lori de Wet,

      What your friend did was more than reminiscing. The neural networks in her brain were getting erased and as if her brain knew it, she was reliving the long lost moments of her life by verbalizing the memories. You are very right to realize that she was not merely telling you, she herself was listening to herself.

      You did an act of great kindness and please make no mistake about it (though I believe you never felt that way since you took her as your friend). I don’t believe in God or else I would have said: may God bless you.

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