'It may be a small life; we may not have done anything particularly great or inspiring, but our memories make us what we are and those who love us are interested in that.'
One of the great gifts of age and maturity is that it can give us a new, and sometimes surprising, perspective on our own lives. Like fine wines, our memories can change and deepen as time passes and we feel differently about things at different points in our lives. Over the past several years we have run an Autobiography Group at the almshouses. We use a series of guided exercises that can help anyone organise and write down their experiences and share them in a group with others on the same journey. The method is particularly helpful for those who like the idea of writing their own story for family or friends (or simply for themselves) but don't know where to begin.
By the end of the course of 10 weeks, participants will have a 'collage' of their life experiences which, if they want to, they can further work on to turn into a more polished autobiography. However, many feel that going through this process together is almost more important than worrying about any finished product. Residents have found the experience helps them to celebrate the great joys of their lives and come to a new relationship with more troubling experiences.
Our new autobiography group is now in full swing and it feels like a warm and supportive environment in which to do this work together. Tears and laughter are regularly found hand in hand.
As a previous participant wrote, 'Realistically I know that never again am I going to climb a mountain in the Lake District or dance the night away, but I did it once and have the memories - and I can do it in my head whenever I want to!'