Telling the Untold

gabrielle_wallaceSince November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, I have been thinking about the importance of something we in the senior living and care industry do all the time – sharing people’s stories so that they aren’t lost or forgotten.

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s (five million Americans alone) is astounding – and that number is expected to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s not including the many people experiencing the other forms of dementia.

People are living much longer now, which is great. However, the need for memory care and support seems to be increasing along with life expectancy. The point is: each time we get to interview a resident of a senior living community and share his or her personal story, we – in a way – are ensuring that his place in history is recorded.

I am excited to learn that many of the communities with which I work are starting memoir groups and committees for residents, which encourage them to write down their stories and share their backgrounds and legacies. It is great for their families and grandchildren, as well as for the residents themselves, as they stay socially engaged with the groups and tap into their pasts with a level of detail they may not have done before. The seniors overcome writer’s block together and capture memories of their life experiences.

WWII Veteran Hal Power

WWII Veteran Hal Power.

WWII Veteran Hal Power.

It has been amazing to hear so many residents’ stories and a privilege to share them. Most recently, I was honored to share the story of World War II army veteran Hal Power, who was taken prisoner of war at The Battle of the Bulge, saved the lives of fellow American soldiers behind German lines and months later made his escape to safety. Today he is staying engaged and healthy as he nears 90 years old at The Legacy Willow Bend in Plano, Texas.

Power’s daughter informed me that recording his heartfelt story of courage and survival was not only fascinating, but actually quite revealing, because her father never talked about his war experiences very much when she was growing up. That  confirmed to me that it’s critical to make sure such incredible experiences and pieces of history are saved and shared. It also makes me want to spend more time talking with my grandparents and other family members to learn more about my own family history. Who knows what we might find out about our lineage? We just need to take the time to really listen to the experiences of our older generations and find out how history can touch all of us.

The media definitely recognized the value of sharing Hal’s incredible story as well. See the feature KXAS NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth ran about this remarkable veteran and how he earned four Purple Hearts among other awards for his service: HERE.

 

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