My grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. Watching her (and other family relatives her generation), I sensed, from a young age, that overcoming adversity often leaves deep wounds that never fully heal. Yet I also learned that these experiences can allow us to grow stronger than we’d ever thought possible. The life my grandparents lived, their sacrifices, strength and relentless hard work allowed my family to live in a way my ancestors would have never thought possible.

Looking back now, I wish my grandparents had written about their experiences – about their hardship, courage and endurance, about their values and the lessons life taught them. Unfortunately, they did not. Nor did I help them to do it. And so I will never know their full story — my real roots, or be able to pass on that knowledge to my children.

Like me, many Americans with aging parents or grandparents, are looking for ways to maximize their shared time.

Particularly as the threat of COVID-19 continues to loom large, family members are exploring creative ways to bond. Capturing life memories is an important way for parents and grandparents to connect, while reflecting on the richness and meaning of their lives.  

When we are intentional about reflecting on life’s memories with our loved ones, we get to experience moments of true connection, moments that we will cherish long after our loved ones have passed on.

Here are some ways that can guide individuals and their parents and grandparents to intentionally and collaboratively preserve their memories.

  • Writing: Studies have reiterated the benefits of writing. Not only is writing a great way to capture one’s memories, but the activity has noted benefits, such as mental fitness, especially later in life. These days, writing about our unique experiences can help with a refreshing escape from pandemic-related stress and negative thinking and creates more meaningful exchanges between older and younger generations.
  • Interviewing: Interviewing parents or grandparents can be a fun and easy way for family members to bond. Ask your parents and grandparents to tell you about their childhood. Ask them about their favorite foods way back when. Or, ask them to reminisce about a childhood friend they grew up with. As a bonus, you can make mementos out of these interviews by capturing them via audio or video recording.

  • Photo Memory Project: Often old photos can spark wonderful conversations. Who is shown in these old pictures? What is the story behind them? Preserve these memories through a collage of photos in book form and add stories with each photo together as a family. This will serve as a great starter project for your family and help to create memories that will truly last a long time.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that in the end, our life is about the special moments we share with those we love. It has reminded us that every person’s story is one-of-a-kind and should be honored. Let your parents and grandparents know that you are interested in the special stories they have to share. This mindful and collective storytelling will help strengthen your family bonds, and unearth new sources of connection, while preserving your elders’ legacy.