May22

Resident Initiates Grandparent Project to Keep History Alive

Grandparents have a lifetime of experience to share, but often we don’t capture their important life stories. The Grandparent Project was initiated by Fish Creek resident Les Stewart who suggested that families take the isolation opportunity to learn more about their grandparents by keeping a journal of the important memories and events in their lives, or by doing informal interviews to learn more about them.

“One of my daughters, Lisa, thought that a family heritage project would be a great learning experience for her twin 10-year-olds Brycen and Renee,” said Les. “She created a list of 81 questions, grouped by subject, that covers basic family information but also expands into what school friendships I had, life during the Depression, the war and other major life events.”

“I was brainstorming ideas one day of how to maintain a strong connection with dad while he was in isolation and thought that having my children interview him about his heritage might be a fun and educational experience for everyone, but it has become a terrific way to create an even deeper relationship between my children and their grandfather,” said Lisa Stewart. “Once we got dad set up with the video technology, the project has produced some wonderful stories that have made a big impression on them. I’m also learning some interesting things about him. Everyone’s getting a big charge out of it.”

The questions Lisa came up with range from the serious to the whimsical. For example:

  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your life?
  • What are your top three tips for me to remember?
  • Did you have a nickname?
  • What are some practical jokes you played on someone?
Lisa and her children stay in touch with Les

Lisa and her children stay in touch with Les

“Grampy told the kids a few things that made them gasp a little and really surprised them,” said Lisa. “For example, he was born in a house, not a hospital. There were no cell phones, and the home phone was a party line with the neighbours. He earned only $2 a month for doing a large number of chores around the house. He was a spotter for airplanes in case enemy aircraft flew over his home in Nova Scotia.”

“I think a project like this is extremely important,” said Les. “So often the children and grandchildren in our families know very little about the early lives of their parents and grandparents. It’s only later in life that they might begin to wonder what life was like back then. This way, we can tell our stories and those memories will remain part of our family’s history.”

The project is now about to grow. United is excited to be supporting the project by sharing the list of more than 80 questions developed by Lisa to other families and residents for them to use to get their own stories started.

The list of questions is extensive and is sure to promote some lively discussions. If you would like to download a copy of Lisa’s questions, click here.

“My plan is to write up a summary of grampy’s stories to send along to relatives,” said Lisa. “So many of them would love to hear more about his life along with any stories which may contain information about their own parents and grandparents. It’s so important to hear those stories. Often, young children aren’t that interested, but if we make the process and the information appealing to them, there is an opportunity to bond the generations.”

Since those discussions are now done over the phone or on a video call, United is helping residents set up video calls with friends and family. Families who wish to set up a video call can contact the reception desks at both communities and book a time. It’s a great way to stay in touch with family and friends.

Photos by United Active Living, Lisa Stewart

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1 Comment

  • Betty Hynes says:

    This is a wonderful idea and I might suggest taking it a step further. Long before video conferencing I kept a journal of the things my dear Dad would tell me – recollections of his childhood, farming stories, joining the Airforce, meeting my Mom and so on. I then wrote a “history” complete with anecdotes, funny things he recalled (and shared ONLY with me) and I added old pictures (Dad as a little boy, Dad looking handsome in his Airforce uniform, and so on) and created a “coffee table” book.
    While electronic messaging and storing items is easy – there is nothing as special as “holding” history in your hands!

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