Genograms are medical or health histories of families from one generation to the next. The reason you may want to interview senior citizens to take a genogram is to make a time capsule, a digital record, or even a scrap book of family health history to present to descendants so the younger people know what type of predispositions, if any, were of concern, what diets, and what health steps or exercise and lifestyle activities the previous generations followed and why.
This time capsule genogram is meant to stand up to time. It can be done in multimedia, where the print, records, oral interviews, photos, or graphs are transferable from one type of technology to the next.
The most important point is the genogram record be readable. That's why a transcript on vellum or other age-resistant paper of whatever is on the media is important just in case the next generation can't open the files, if they're on video or audio tape, disc, flash drive, an MP3 file, an online newsletter, or other digital record put into a time capsule.
In the distant past, art and the written word preserved records if they were drawn on vellum, leather, treated wood, oil paint, bone, or stone. Currently, electronic recordings such as film soon begin to fade or can't be opened like some old phonograph records if the relative doesn't have a player that works.
Seniors with cameras interviewing others for their family medical history time capsule
Ethnic or demographics-related media enthusiasts often consist of seniors with cameras who want to interview other seniors for their life story highlights summarized in any of the numerous senior newspapers published in Sacramento. Some of these senior publications include Echo Media - Sacramento Senior Spectrum and a newspaper read by seniors and others, Inside Arden that sometimes publishes life story highlights and features or business of locals.
When interviewing older adults for the media, most readers are looking for turning points, life story highlights, and advice others can use about how the individual moved forward after making choices and then transcending them when the choices involved universal issues that all people go through at various stages of life, growth, and learning.
Senior Spectrum is a print newspaper read by senior citizens and often features life story highlights and features of local people over the age of 50. You also can read articles online published in the Spectrum Newspaper, such as the article on how to avoid falls.
Sacramento's Ethnic Newspapers and Magazines
There's a bi-monthly English language Italian-American cultural magazine, "Buona Salute" published in Sacramento. If you read Russian, check out the Russian newspaper, Anons Russian Newspaper published for the Slavic community in Sacramento, and there's an English language Jewish newspaper, The Jewish Voice - Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region. You can check out other newspapers or magazines published by the diverse ethnic groups in Sacramento. Publications are either in English or the language of the particular ethnic group. Numerous local ethnic groups have their own publications.
Check your public library for the various religious or ethnic publications' addresses or sample copies. These publications may be able to use media articles based on interviews with members of the respective communities.
Nationally, you have the AARP Bulletin read by people over the age of 50, but what's needed in Sacramento are publications and media directed to the fastest growing group of readers over the age of 75. The local senior publications often feature life story highlights. What's also needed are media outlets where persons can write or upload their fiction stories or novels as e-books online, particularly the writing of life story experiences by older adults dealing with life stages that most people go through and universal interests of dealing with life's changes, experiences, choices, and living on a budget.
An alternative media is the video camera recording of life experiences and turning points of seniors, including centenarians. This Bulletin features the latest daily news information and articles on health, social Security, medicare, politics, scam alerts and personal interviews of people with various financial or health issues related to the economy and housing.
Here are the techniques you need to interview seniors about their culture for the media, focusing on writing features and life story highlights. Let's say you would like to record the family history health trends of various generations and life story highlights of older adults to add to or create an archive or oral history/personal history records on DVDs, flash drives, CDs, or other recording devices? Do you look for healthy trends to emphasize when recording family histories and life story highlights, turning points, and events?
Do you look to record the life stories of veterans, your city's residents before 1950, members of your family, a variety of ethnic groups, or for whatever reasons you want to record life history highlights and turning points, events, and images of what life in your neck of the woods was like many years ago?
Questions to break the ice begin with "What's your most memorable experience?"
After the individual tells you his or her most memorable experience, then you ask to record (and listen to) each memorable experience of each decade of the persons life. If the person is a centenarian you have 10 memorable decades with one highlighted event, experience, or turning point. Then you ask what did you learn from that experience that may help others to know about you or help them?
Ask the various genealogy groups in your area whether they'd like recordings of life story highlights that may include genealogy, ethnology, and memoirs of what Sacramento life was like many years ago.
You might start with local senior residences, assisted living complexes, or senior centers. Also, you could talk to the various veterans associations and local groups to see whether anyone would like his or her life story turning points recorded as part of an oral history collection--with the recordings transcribed as text and archived in various libraries that ask for life stories and personal histories.
First start with a list of questions. Then choose the senior center, residence, community organization, or group on which you want to focus. You can put the information into a time capsule, produce a multimedia slide show, create a video recording, or record voices and transcribe the words on acid-free paper.
Intergenerational Writing for Genealogy and Life Stories
Step 1: Send someone enthusiastic about personal and oral history to senior community centers, lifelong learning programs at universities, nursing homes, or senior apartment complexes activity rooms. You can reach out to a wide variety of older adults in many settings, including at libraries, church groups, hobby and professional or trade associations, unions, retirement resorts, public transportation centers, malls, museums, art galleries, genealogy clubs, and intergenerational social centers.
Step 2: Have each personal historian or volunteer bring a tape recorder with tape and a note pad. Bring camcorders for recording video to turn into time capsules and CDs or DVDs with life stories, personal history experiences, memoirs, and events highlighting turning points or special times in people’s lives.
Step 3: Assign each personal historian one or two older persons to interview with the following questions.
Before Video Taping Life Stories of Older Adults: Questions to Ask
1. What were the most significant turning points or events in your life?
2. How did you survive the Wars?
3. What were the highlights, turning points, or significant events that you experienced during the economic downturn of 1929–1939? How did you cope or solve your problems?
4. What did you do to solve your problems during the significant stages of your life at age 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70-plus? Or pick a year that you want to talk about.
5. What changes in your life do you want to remember and pass on to future generations?
6. What was the highlight of your life?
7. How is it best to live your life after 70?
8. What years do you remember most?
9. What was your favorite stage of life?
10. What would you like people to remember about you and the times you lived through?
Step 4: Have the student record the older person’s answers. Select the most significant
events, experiences, or turning points the person chooses to emphasize. Then
write the story of that significant event in ten pages or less.
Step 5: Ask the older person to supply the younger student photos, art work,
audio tapes, or video clips. Usually photos, pressed flowers, or art work will be
supplied. Have the student or teacher scan the photos onto a disk and return the
original photos or art work or music to the owner.
Step 6: The personal historian, volunteer, student and/or teacher scans the photos
and puts them onto a website on the Internet at one of the free communities
that give away Web site to the public at no cost. Most search engines will give a list of communities at offering free Web sites to the public.
Family sites, blogs, and clouds online for newsletters and photos
Microsoft also offers free family sites for family photos and newsletters or information. Ask your Internet service provider whether it offers free Web site space to subscribers. The free Web sites are limited in space.
For larger Web site spaces with room for audio and video material and other
keepsake memorabilia, purchase a personal Web site from a Web-hosting company.
Shop around for affordable Web site space for a multimedia life story time
capsule that would include text, video and/or audio clips, music, art, photos, and
any other effects.
Multimedia technique ideas for time capsules of significant life events
1. Create a Web site with text from the older person’s significant life events
2. Add photos.
3. Add sound MP3 audio files or .wav files with the voice of the older person speaking in small clips or sound bites.
4. Intersperse text and photos or art work with sound, if available.
Add video clips, if available and won’t take too much bandwidth.
5. Put Web site on line as Time Capsule of (insert name of person) interviewed
and edited by, insert name of student who interviewed older person.
Step 7: Label each Web site Time Capsule and collect them in a history archives
on the lives of older adults at the turn of the millennium. Make sure the older
person and all relatives and friends are emailed the Web site link.
You have now created a time capsule for future generations. This can be used as a classroom exercise in elementary and high schools to teach the following:
1. Making friends with older adults.
2. Learning to write on intergenerational topics.
3. Bringing community together of all generations.
4. Learning about foster grandparents.
5. History lessons from those who lived through history.
Before Video Taping Life Stories of Older Adults: Questions to Ask
6. Learning about diversity and how people of diverse origins lived through the
7. Preserving the significant events in the lives of people as time capsules for
future generations to know what it was like to live between 1900 and 2000
at any age.
8. Learning to write skits and plays from the life stories of older adults taken
down by young students.
9. Teaching older adults skills in creative writing at senior centers.
10. Learning what grandma did during World War 2 or the stock market crash
of 1929 followed by the economic downturn of 1930–1938.
What to ask people about life stories and their family's health trends
When you interview, ask for facts and concrete details. Look for statistics, and
research whether statistics are deceptive in your case.
To write a plan, write one sentence for each topic that moves the story or piece
forward. Then summarize for each topic in a paragraph. Use dialogue at least in
every third paragraph.
Look for the following facts or headings to organize your plan for a biography or
What life experience-related questions to ask people you're recording or interviewing for the media
1. Proverb. Ask the people you interview what would be their proverb or
slogan if they had to create/invent a slogan that fit themselves or their aspirations:
One slogan might be something like the seventies ad for cigarettes,
“We’ve come a long way, baby,” to signify ambition. Only look for an original
2. Purpose. Ask the people you interview or a biography, for what purpose is
or was their journey? Is or was it equality in the workplace or something personal
and different such as dealing with change—downsizing, working after
retirement, or anything else?
3. Imprint. Ask what makes an imprint or impact on people’s lives and what
impact the people you’re interviewing want to make on others?
4. Statistics. How deceptive are they? How can you use them to focus on
5. Influence. How have the people that you’re interviewing influenced changes in the way
people or corporations function?
6. Aspirations. To what is the person aspiring? Goals? Purpose? Passion?
7. Communication or catalyst. What kind of communication skills does the person have and how are these skills received? Are the communication skills male or female, thinking or
feeling, yin or yang, soft or steeled, and are people around these people negative
or positive about those communication skills? Is the person a catalyst, bringing others together?
8. Motivation and inspiration to others. What new styles is the person using? What kind of motivational methods, structure, or leadership? Is the person a follower or leader? How does the person match his or her personality to the character of a corporation or interest?
9. Handling change. How does the person handle change? Does the person transcend past choices or mistakes, learn from them and then move on? Advice to others on transcending past decisions? How has the person faced and coped with losses? Regret or integrity?
10. Reinforcing self and others and making a difference. How is the person reinforced? People or animals, hobbies, interests that move the person or keep him/her busy? How did the person make a difference in the life of others or self?
Summarize each decade of life's story highlights that are most memorable
Once you have titles and summarized paragraphs for each segment of your story, you can more easily flesh out the story by adding dialogue and description to your factual information. Look for differences in style between the people you interview? How does the person want to be remembered?
Is the person a risk taker or cautious for survival? Does the person identify with her job or the people involved in the process of doing the work most creatively or originally? Does creative expression take precedence over processes of getting work out to the right place at the right time?
Personal wishes and/or reinventing the self
Does the person want his ashes to spell the words “re-invent yourself” where the sea meets the shore? This is a popular concept? Or what personal wishes, facts, or other details would that individual want others to know to go on the record?
Where would that individual want the life story highlights, events, or experiences, archived? And how many copies would the person want to be sent to what other public places such as museums, libraries, schools, or to which people?
Ask people what they would like to inform younger generations about family health histories or health trends in their relatives that might be important for the younger generations to know. What would the older person like younger people to know from the older person's intergenerational experiences and life story highlights or turning points?