By Kellie Smillie, Day Shift Manager, Valley VNA

It’s all the rage today, the value of “story” and the ability of storytelling to build empathy and engagement. But before marketers discovered the irresistible attraction of stories, families were already passing them around the dinner table or retelling family lore while relaxing in a lawn chair over a cold brew.

Stories do not need to be written down and illustrated to be worthy of retelling. A good story is just as valuable to the teller as the listener, especially if it’s shared in warm conversation, with room for thoughtful – or emotional – pauses of remembrance.

The next time you plan a visit to a friend or loved one who lives in an assisted living community, think about how to warmly elicit a story from him or her. It’s an honor to be asked, and an even bigger honor to be graced with listening. The three magic words are “Tell me about … , ” then fill in the blank, as in:

Tell me about …
● When you first saw the man you would marry (or the woman who would become your wife)
● When you joined the military (or your brothers/sisters went off to war)
● Your first job
● Your mother (or father), cousins or favorite grandparent
● What you did for fun as a teenager
● Where you lived when you were first married
● Your favorite car
● Your first job or early career
● What you liked to cook
● What downtown looked like when you were a child
● The church you attended as a youngster
● What it was like when you had your first baby
● What kind of chores you had as a child
● Your favorite radio or TV show

Listen closely to the words you hear and the wisdom that shines through via the backlight of your friend’s lifelong experience. Engage other family members in your quest to collect stories, and share what you learn at your next big family gathering. Bring young people into the room to hear your family history, and you may inspire a young person’s next imaginative art or literature project.

Are you interested in meeting the people who interact with our residents and get to know their individual stories? Please call (920) 727-5555 to learn more about the many ways we value each person’s life experience. We’d love to meet you – and learn about your story!