July 13, 2011
Senior loved ones often are a treasure trove of information that is not only valuable to their families, but that may be of interest to others as well. Family caregivers can encourage them to discuss these stories and share their historical legacies.
Q. My 82-year-old dad is a World War II veteran. He has some wonderful stories from his service. We've video-taped a few of his tales to pass down to our children. Do any organizations collect this type of information and what are other ways that we can help keep this history alive? Dad still lives in the original family home and was widowed when mom died five years ago.
Please check out the Veterans' History Project at www.loc.gov/vets/. The United States Congress created the Veterans' History Project (VHP) in 2000 as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. According to the website, the mission of the project is to collect and archive the personal recollections of U.S. wartime veterans to honor their service and share their stories with current and future generations.
You can send the Library a copy of your dad's tape or DVD, as well as any other memorabilia. The project collects war veterans' first-hand oral histories, memoirs, photographs, letters, diaries, and other historical documents from World War I through current conflicts. Review the website to learn how to submit these items.
Items donated to this project are housed in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress. After a six-month processing period, these stories are available to you, scholars, students and anyone else visiting the Library. This is a great way to preserve your family legacy not only for future generations of your family, but for others as well.
Encouraging your father to continue to tell stories is a great way to exercise his mind as well as to validate his important role in history. He should be asked to talk about these significant times in his life to grandchildren and whoever else will listen. Consider putting his stories on paper for your family history or including them with your submission to the Veterans' History Project.
Since your dad lives alone, you might need help with a project such as this. If so, enlist a family member who has volunteer time available, or a trusted neighbor or friend. Or, you might consider hiring a non-medical companion. For example, professional CAREGiversSM from Home Instead Senior Care® often get involved in seniors' lives by assisting with hobbies and other projects.
You've already completed the first important step by recording your father's memories. That's a keepsake that will grow in value throughout the generations of your family.
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