Teaching Tuesday: Memoir Partnering Using Reminiscence Therapy (Part 1)

“Memoir Partnering brings me back to the world. It’s fun to talk about my life and realize the blessings I have.”

These are the words of 97-year-old BJ, who reminisced about her photos and her life and now enjoys the resulting memoir. Her memoir was written using 7 Memories: Partnering to Write a Memoir, that puts Reminiscence Therapy in the hands of family, friends, and volunteers who want to capture memories of those whose recall is fading.

Reminiscence Therapy is the use of life histories to improve psychological well-being, as defined by the American Psychological Association. The original idea is credited to Erik Erikson who included it as part of his eight stages of psychosocial development from birth to death. In late adulthood, the last stage, he posited that it becomes important for us to look back on our lives with satisfaction before we die. In 1963, Dr. Robert Butler formalized the idea and coined the term “Reminiscence Therapy.”

Since the 1960s, numerous studies with older adults, show that Reminiscence Therapy improves cognitive function, quality of life, and emotional well-being. It provides older adults with a sense of overall life satisfaction and coping skills, and may also help to ameliorate the symptoms of depression and dementia.

Rather than approach reminiscence as therapy, 7Memories.com approaches it as intentional storytelling from one person to another, resulting in a written memoir. 7 Memories: Partnering to Write a Memoir offers the Memoir Partner (MP) a specific method for using photos and memorabilia to evoke memories in the older person, termed the Extraordinary Person (EP). When the EP recalls the life-shaping challenges s/he has overcome, self-esteem, coping skills, memory, and mental agility improve. The EP reflects on life and how s/he wants to be remembered—and leaves a message. The memoir is information passed from one generation to another—and a physical manifestation of a life that will not be forgotten.

The purpose of 7 Memories: Partnering to Write a Memoir, is to provide a complete guide—how to use Reminiscence Therapy to turn memories into memoirs. It provides everything the MP needs to start and finish the memoir—from the introduction, reflective listening, templates, and memory prompts to optional “homework” for EPs who can work independently after each session to reinforce memories. Based on personal photos and memorabilia, it can include all sensory modalities, visual, auditory, gustatory/olfactory, and tactile. The method can be adapted to specific individual skill levels and used in small groups.

7 Memories: Partnering to Write a Memoir is available at Amazon.