Like yesterday, today we have some reflections from one of Kincardine & Deeside Befriending’s befrienders. Read Marilyn’s thoughts about reminiscing and sharing memories as we get older . . .
We all have a store of personal memories of people and life events which have made us who we are today. Childhood memories in particular, because of their emotional power, have played a significant part in determining the kind of adults we grow up to be. The task of making sense of the past becomes more important in old age, when we have the time to reflect in some meaningful way on these experiences.
Remembrance of past events helps us to preserve a personal identity and is itself a valuable process. By surrounding ourselves with momentos of the past such as diaries, presents, old photos, home movies and record collections we personalise our surroundings. Some might call it ‘junk’ but it creates a homely environment of warmth and intimacy.
The family, immediate and extended, plays such a major role in our lives that many people have found enjoyment in tracing their family trees back through the ages and in the process piece together the jigsaw of relatives known and unknown and gain more understanding of how life has evolved over the intervening years. For those who have lived all their lives in a single town or village there is a strong connection with local events and they may find fascination with local history, museum collections and historical photos of their locality.
I well remember my grandfather reading me a letter from a relative who had emigrated to Australia in Victorian times. Of course, as a fourteen year old, his story was only of passing interest, and my grandfather and the letter are long gone. Looking back, I now realise that my grandfather was sharing some of his past (and mine) and had I had the experience to ask the right questions, how much more rewarding our relationship could have been.
All too often elderly people may feel ignored by society. They are no longer employed and, without relationships in the workplace, may well feel undervalued. The process of reminiscing not only gives an opportunity for elderly people to recall past events – “how it was”, but may well have the bonus of enriching the befriender-befriendee relationship.
However, in many ways the process of reminiscing is a “one-way street”. As befrienders, most of us will be of a different generation and so we cannot engage in the same way as someone who has been through similar experiences. This is why it is so valuable for the elderly to have the opportunity to meet with peers of their own generation.
When this is not possible, the process of reminiscing, evoking memories of “times past”, is a great opportunity for helping to connect with an elderly person who, perhaps due to a series of set-backs, has become more isolated. Prolonged solitude can cause a sense of emptiness, which leads to negative thoughts and depression. By tapping in to the things that connect the person with their surroundings, we can share with them the laughs and sometimes the tears of their precious life experiences.
Marilyn, A K&D Befriending Volunteer Befriender
If you’re interested in taking on a befriending role, you can contact Brigitte at:
42 – 46 Barclay Street, Stonehaven AB39 2FX, Tel: 01569 765714. firstname.lastname@example.org www.kdbefriending.org.uk