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    « Memoir: A History - A Look at Ben Yagoda's New Book | Main | A Personal Editor From Start to Finish »

    Aids to Senior Recall for a Memoir or Family History

    A senior who begins to work on a memoir or family history is often concerned about the limits of her memory. She is afraid that she will be unable to recall the name of a person or the details of an event. You can help her remember!

    Begin by relaxing! Anxiety blocks memory. Advise her to breathe deeply and relax. A lost memory may appear out of thin air.

    Preceding sessions when you will work on your project with exercise can have a very positive effect on her ability to recall details of stories.

    More active steps involve using cues of various sorts to trigger elusive memories.

    • Look at old photographs, documents, letters, diaries or family memorabilia.

    • Listen to music from the approximate time of the memory.

    • Use visualization: Picturing the scene of an event in as much detail as possible and recalling people who were present may help fill in gaps in memories of a story.

    • Create a timeline of what was going on at the time she is trying to recall.

    • Recall speech patterns or favorite expressions of a person involved in an event and unlock details of the story.

    • Recalling a smell is often enough to call up details of time, place and events.

    • Encourage her to talk with a friend or another relative who might also know the people or events she is trying to recall to get her thinking about a time in the past which lets the memories come back naturally.

    Whatever you do, be patient. Cues may not produce immediate results. The unconscious mind may take time to process. The desired memory may slip back into consciousness at a later time for no obvious reason.

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