4 Seniors: How to capture your elder loved ones’ story

OKLAHOMA CITY – By the time we are adults, it is all too easy to look at our parents and grandparents as though their lives have been miles removed from our own, causing a communication and generation gap seemingly impossible to bridge. But the older we get, the more we understand the importance of connecting with our elders before they’re gone.

There is no better way to do this than to talk to them like you never have before and create a personal video recording of their lives to share with other family members and future generations. And there’s no better time to do this than the holidays when families come together.

Here are a few tips from Savvy Senior Editor Jim Miller to help you get started.

What You’ll Need

Your first step is to find out if your parents or grandparents are willing to make a legacy video, which would entail you asking them a number of thoughtful questions about their life in an interview format in front of a video recording device. If they are, all you’ll need is a smartphone or camcorder and a list of questions or prompts to get them talking.

Recording Equipment

If you have a smartphone, making a video of your elder loved one’s story is simple and free. However, you may want to invest a “smartphone tripod” to hold the phone while you conduct the interview, and a “smartphone external microphone,” which would improve the audio quality. You can find these types of products at Amazon.com for under $20.

Most smartphones today have good quality cameras and have the ability to edit/trim out the parts you don’t want. Or you can download a free video-editing app like Magisto or Adobe Premiere Clip that can help you customize your video.

Questions and Prompts

To help you prepare your list of questions for your parents’ or grandparents’ video interview, go to “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” website at TalkofaLifetime.org. This resource, created by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, offers a free workbook that lists dozens of questions in different categories. Some of these include: earliest memories and childhood; significant people; proudest accomplishments; and most cherished objects. This will help you put together a wide variety of meaningful, open-ended questions.

Old photos of your parents or grandparents, their family members and friends are also great to have on hand to jog their memory and stimulate conversations.

After you select your questions and photos, be sure to share them with your loved ones ahead of time so they can have some time to think about their answers. This will make the interview go much smoother.

Interview Tips

Arrange an interview time when your parents or grandparents are rested and relaxed, and choose a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted. You may need several sessions to cover everything you want.

When you get started, ask your loved ones to introduce themselves and ask a warm-up question like “When and where were you born?” Then ease into your selected questions, but use them as a guide, not a script. If they go off topic, go with it. You can redirect them to your original question later. Think of it as a conversation; there’s no right or wrong thing to talk about, as long as it’s meaningful to you and them.

Also, be prepared to ask follow-up questions or diverge from your question list if you’re curious about something. If you’d like to hear more, try “And then what happened?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What were you thinking in that moment?”

And end your interview with some reflective questions, such as “What legacy would you like to leave?” or “How do you want to be remembered?”

Click here to view Jim Miller’s website.