old photo album

Source: Creative Commons

There’s something special about blowing the dust off the lid of a faded box and slowly removing its contents. Immediately, you are transported back in time as you decipher handwritten letters, gaze at black-and-white photographs, and carefully inspect random memorabilia. It is even more rewarding to look through those treasures with loved ones as they reflect on their past experiences. The problem is that such moments are themselves becoming things of the past in our fast-paced, technological and far-flung world.

In today’s society, rather than taking the time to pen handwritten letters and cards, we opt to share our life experiences via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and send e-Cards. Instead of ordering double prints and painstakingly labeling the back of each photo before mailing them to friends and family, we digitally upload and share our pictures on photo storage sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly. It’s instantaneous and, many might argue, still reflects the same amount of consideration toward the recipient.

However, looking at something through a screen is a far cry from the sensory experience of actually holding an item in your hands. Take an old diary or journal, for example. Not only can you look at it closely at varying angles in order to decipher the handwriting, but you can touch it. You can feel the smoothness of the worn leather cover and the brittleness of the yellowing, stained pages. You can hear the gentle crinkle of the pages as they are turned and the soft whisper of an old photo or theater ticket as it falls to the floor. Depending on where the journal was stored or how old it is, you might detect the distinct smell of aging paper or even a trace scent of flowers from an old sachet.

It is undeniable that the Internet and technology offer us much in the way of communication, but we all crave face-to-face interaction occasionally. This is especially true for the oldest members of our society. Oftentimes, seniors wish to talk about their experiences and share their learned lessons with loved ones, but this actually only takes place, if at all, at holidays or other family get-togethers. These tend to be stressful times when many are distracted by the meal preparations, the big game on TV and exuberant children on a sugar rush.

It should come as no surprise, then, that my clients enjoy the dedicated one and two-hour intervals that we sit together; a time where they get to discuss, at length and uninterrupted, on the topics of their life experiences. Frequently, they get so excited about the process that they jot down notes in preparation for the next interview session, not wanting to overlook an important, amusing, or insightful event.

If you are fortunate enough to still have living grandparents and/or aging parents, try to take the time to sit and listen to them. You may need to ask a few questions to get them started, but you will soon discover how easily they relax and begin to engage you in their stories. Take notes, record the session and enjoy the experience. It will be treasured by each of you, as well as your descendants.