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Linking the Past to the Present -
The Benefits of Reminiscing

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 5)

Uncle Joe recalls the good old days when a Ford coupe was $500, gasoline cost 19 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was three cents, and penny candy was a treat. Grandma Millie tells stories about growing up on the farm and walking three miles to school every day. Alice fondly remembers the days of anticipation before boarding the paddle wheeler for an excursion on the Mississippi River. Everyone frequently reminisces and reviews life. It’s a natural part of people’s lives and is essential to human existence.

“Each time an individual tells part of his/her life story, those who listen are like a mirror, reflecting and affirming their lives.”John Kunz, founder, International Institute of Reminiscence and Life Review.

Reminiscence is a free-flowing process of thinking or talking about one’s experiences in order to reflect on and recapture significant events of a lifetime. We all live in the present, yet we still carry our “past” selves with us throughout our lives. We are part of a rich history that needs to be shared and preserved. The stories we tell about our lives are also important sources of self-identity and enable us to explore and relate our past to the present.

Older people often lose what has defined them: family, spouses, friends, careers, and their homes. They need to remember who they were to help define who they are today. Life review offers a chance to re-examine one’s life, pursue remote memories, recall past events and accomplishments, and seek personal validation. Life review, as a formal concept, is widely used in counseling therapy as people search for meaning, solve problems and strive for emotional resolutions. It also tends to occur when a person is confronted with critical decisions or is faced with the end of their life.

“A man’s most innate need is his need to be significant, to make a difference, to find purpose and meaning.” Author Patrick Morley

Research and demonstration projects involving reminiscence and life review can now be found throughout the world, especially in the United States, Europe and Japan. Recently, the author of this article attended the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review. The 7th biennial conference was held in San Francisco and drew together national and international experts in the field to discuss current practice, research and education in a variety of areas. These included the use of reminiscence and life review in music, poetry, drama, personal counseling, mental health, art therapy, hospice care, cross-cultural interactions, oral histories, memoir writing and other autobiographical work.


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