Age-enhanced Sun City event

scmcd_4172010__2_Sun City communities are described as “age-restricted.” I think it might be better to say they are “age-enhanced”—particularly at Sun City MacDonald Ranch in Henderson, NV.

Yes, residents must be 55 or older in age. However, as a community there are no limits on the possibilities. They swim, golf, play cards, join book discussion groups and write together. Over the past four years, I’ve had the honor to lead a memoir writing class, where the rotation of memoirists write beautiful prose about growing up in diverse corners of the country.

This past Saturday, two dynamic residents spearheaded an event to spur others to save their stories, too. Karen Anderson and Emilie Karczewski called the event Write Now! The message was direct: now is the time to write your life stories. After all, no one is promised a tomorrow.

Participants included residents who have successfully crafted their memoirs. Ralph McNeal and L Jeffrey Young chatted with others about how they met the task of writing their personal narratives. Others shared they tomes as published at the local print shop, immediate heirlooms for their families to cherish.

Though I am not a resident, Karen and Emilie invited me to provide some “LifeCatching inspiration” to ease the audience into the great feeling of capturing personal histories. It was a delightful couple of hours. And I’m certain that several have begun collecting their personal histories for their families to enjoy. In fact, I just received an email from one of the participants verfying the inspiration!

Interview Tips from SOHA

Community history should not be ephemeral. This goal to give history a future bonds oral historians as they work to preserve community memories. The energy of this was felt at the Southwest Oral History Association (SOHA) meeting last Saturday in Boulder City. But what does it feel like to be asked about your participation in community history?

A panel of three Las Vegas area residents discussed their experiences of being interviewed for oral history projects. Each found the opportunity to talk about their life experiences enjoyable; and how it often sparked a memory that they had not visited in a long time, not just ones about their community involvement.


Southwest Oral History meeting panel: Claytee White, Ralph Denton, Gene Segerblom, and Bob Faiss.

Reminiscing once again proves to be important for the storyteller and as a means of preserving history. If not given the chance to talk, Ralph Denton, a Nevada born politician and attorney whose client list included the likes of Howard Hughes and Hank Greenspun, says he might not have recalled the time he asked his dad why he had chosen to settle in Nevada rather than continuing on to California. According to Mr. Denton, his father admonished him: anyone could make it in California. But that it took a real man to make it in the Nevada desert.

The panel, which also included Bob Faiss, attorney and gaming law expert, and Gene Segerblom, part of the only four-generation family of Nevada state legislators and fify-year resident of Boulder City.

The trio also offered tips for interviewers to make the questioning process enjoyable:

  • When the interview stirs up emotions, turn the recorder off. It builds trust. The next time the interviewee may be more comfortable and not feel it necessary.
  • Be prepared. Know the history of the times the interviewee lived.
  • Prepare the interviewee during a pre-interview session. If this is not possible, provide them with some initial questions or topics to be discussed.

It’s better than TV

Listening to the stories of others is so much better than watching TV. When you think about it, a television show has predictability about it. Where listening to our elders talk about growing up doesn't.

For example, last week I taught a four-hour workshop for Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix. The group ranged from their 40s to their 80s. One was afflicted by Alzheimer's, one by frontal lobe dementia and the others were caregivers looking for an activity that would help them save personal stories.

To demonstrate that we are never at a loss of topics to explore I pulled out a small stack of newspaper clippings. Randomly I picked one and shared the topic: recent changes in grocery stores. With that, I asked each person to summarize a personal memory that the topic triggered. One by one they shared stories, which ranged from noting price changes over the years to what the neighborhood grocery store was like in their youth. Everyone had a unique anecdote. The wife of the sufferer of frontal lobe dementia sufferer was certain that her husband should pass. However, to her delight, he had something to talk about. Though his words were inaudible, his face radiated with joy. His smile was infectious and the rest of us joined in his happiness of telling a story.

That few moments also reminded us all that everyone does have a story to tell. And unlike watching TV, it is never a waste of time to listen and watch another tell their story.

GPS for Memory Lecture Series

Unlocking your Memory Vault, March 12, 2010, 11am to noon
Desert Botanical Gardens in the Webster Auditorium
Registration is FREE.
Call 602.839.6850 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reserve your seat.

In January, Banner Alzheimer's Institute launched the GPS for Memory Lecture series as part of their community outreach. It is quite an honor to be the guest speaker for the March event, to share my work, observations, and to inspire.

Over the past few years, I have invested much of my energies addressing the value of saving the memories of everyday people. When my own father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the urgency came to my doorstep. My passion only deepened. My mission only became more important.

My heart tries to understand how Alzheimer's and other diseases can rob us of memories. I am not a doctor; I know that I cannot find a cure. But I do hope that I will inspire people to value reminiscing with their loved ones, to record the moments and to prepare a legacy to share with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

If you are in Phoenix on March 12, join me. Or if you know of someone who might enjoy hearing my talk, send them this message. Record a loved one sharing a story that you have heard a million times before. Some day you won't hear it any more and you will miss it.

Banner Alzheimer's Institute is a Banner Health Center of Excellence focused on treatment, research and support for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. Ending Alzheimer's disease without losing a generation.

Imagine what is possible. A New Year's Message

It's a good day today! A childhood friend discovered an old photo from our grade school days. Scanned it and emailed it to me. There I was standing on risers with the rest of my second grade class. I joyfully printed out to share with my husband. He was not as nostalgic as I was. But why should he be, he wasn't there. Nevertheless, it made me smile.

It's a great day today! I received an email from a high school friend who has been heroically battling cancer. She completed her last chemo treatment and her recent cat scan shows no evidence of cancer. Prayers have been answered.

Yesterday was a good day for our friends who flew internationally. It was the day after Christmas, the day after the failed attempt to blow up a flight into Detroit. Hours of ramped up security and inconveniences in London's Heathrow Airport delayed their departure for hours. They described with some incredulousness how the last hour of the flight they were required to stow all items, keep tray tops up, remove any blankets or pillows, and not allowed access to restrooms. Their day got better when they finally landed five hours later than originally scheduled...and they rested their travel weary heads on their own pillows to dream about the fun trip they had shared together.

Yes, the days can get better. We can turn the volume down on the yelling of TV news and seek a balanced diet of reporting. We can take a minute to recycle one more item. We can help our children dream by sharing a nostalgic story every once in awhile. A story that proves we were once young, too. That we survived challenges and continued to believe in a better future.

On the darkest of days, I choose to see hope that that the world can improve. As we look toward this coming New Year, may it herald a decade of peace filled promises kept. I'm not a glassy-eyed optimist. I am realistic. Unfortunate things happen when others are not filled with peace and hope in their hearts.

However, today I want to imagine what is possible. To find hope in 2010 so that the world our children and grandchildren inherit will get better. That we all find joy in an old photograph shared, happiness in the news that a friend is healing, and satisfaction that bad does not erase goodness in each of us.

Joyful celebrations!