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The Power of Telling Family Stories

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The Power of Telling Family Stories


Once thought to be a useless activity or harmless pastime at best, people are increasingly recognizing the value of reminiscences and life reflection. One of the first researchers to appreciate the power of life stories was Dr. Robert Butler, founder of the New York-based International Longevity Center. In a 1963 paper, he coined the term “Life Review.”

“I was struck some years back by the fact that people tended to review their life. At that time whenever people reminisced it was regarded by psychologists and psychiatrists as possible early signs of senility,” Dr. Butler says. “But because we were studying vital, healthier older people, it struck me how important it was for people to come to grips with the kind of life they had led.”

Benefits of a life history

Recording a family history can be therapeutic in the following ways:

  • Creates a reason for families to talk about things they may never have talked about before
  • May lead to reconciliation among family members
  • Helps families understand why certain family members act the way they do or why they hold certain beliefs
  • Creates a legacy for future generations
  • Builds bonds between generations
  • Gets rid of emotional baggage
  • Alleviates depression, anxiety and reduces guilt regarding past
  • Lets younger generations understand what life was like even a few decades ago

Memory Keepers: Preserve Family Memories
Conversation Starters: 20 Questions to Ask Your Parents
What To Do When a Parent Repeats the Same Things Over and Over

The Power of Telling Family Stories originally appeared on

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7:38AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

Thank you AgingCare, for Sharing this!

4:26PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

my great aunt spent a large amount of time driving around the roads near my great grandmothers house and writing down the things the older people said. Jokes, stories, remembrances, and recipes. These people were mostly well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. My great grandmother told her last when she was 90. Her older sister still tells all. She (my aunt) made it a quarterly paper and would give the paper out to the locals she knew and loved. When my grandmother passed she wrote a short book of all of grandma's stories and such. It is a family keepsake and something we all treasure. When I read it, I can still hear my grandmothers voice. RIP Fleta Mae

10:18PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

it is sad when people don't value the stories of their elders. Their stories are part of our legacy. They tell us where we came from, how we got here, why we are the way we are. When our elders are gone, they and their stories and our life histories are gone forever.

10:32PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Great encouragement to write down the stories - I treasure the memoirs people wrote a hundred years ago.

8:44PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

ty for the excellent info

5:38PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Great, as long as the stories are the truth

8:30AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

It is sad when families don't share their stories.

12:58PM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

This is such a important thing to do. Sadly i did not do this with my grandmother who lived in France durring the German occupation. She is gone now and so have her stories.

10:40AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

I have very fond memories of the stories my mother told me and later on,my daughter. My 2 little granddaughters are only 3 and 2 but I hope I am around long enough to tell them some of my stories.

9:00AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

happy memories of my grandma's family stories

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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