The Wall Street Journal (New York, NY)
November 14, 2009
Tripping down memory lane is a healthy and necessary task of growing older—even if only practiced privately, or in the company of an agreeable friend or spouse.
The urge to sum up is "part of normal aging," wrote Gene D. Cohen, a psychiatrist and gerontologist, in his book "The Mature Mind." Inspired by a growing sense of our own mortality, reminiscing can lead to greater self-awareness and self-acceptance, as well as the resolution of old conflicts and unfinished business, he explained.
In "Man's Search for Meaning," Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl affirmed the value of reflecting on past accomplishments as one grows older. "Why should the old envy the young?" he asked. "For the possibilities that a young person has? Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered."
Our friends Bill and Gay celebrated their 50th anniversary two years ago with a weekend of family activities. They had asked that their five grandchildren, then ages 8 to 16, each write three questions about their lives that they would answer at the festivities.
The kids took to the assignment with gusto, each producing about 10 questions. Among them: What did you think of each other when you first met? Did you look a lot different then? What did you love to do when you were young, because I know that you didn't have much technology? What was your biggest fight about?
Answering took hours. "We could have gone on indefinitely," Gay says. "It made for a hilarious evening." It goes without saying that the exercise was also a deft way to transmit lessons about life while strengthening generational bonds. And can you imagine a more pleasurable activity for older folks than having an audience of giggling grandkids in the palm of your hand?
Subjects Covered: healing, personal storytelling
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