Archives for August 2020

What’s on Your Bucket List?

In the 2007 film The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman set off on a road trip to check off all the things they wanted to do before they “kicked the bucket.” Since then, people of all ages have been making their own lists of things they want to do—their bucket lists. And it’s great that people are doing this at younger ages. No one wants to reach the end of their life only to discover there were so many things they wished they’d done.

The good news is that we’re living in exciting times (pandemic aside). There’s so much available to us as seniors; and let’s face it, we’re not the seniors that our grandparents were. Aging today brings with it a different mind-set about engaging in exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us. It’s about making positive choices that allow you to live life at your highest level while realizing your passions and dreams regardless of your age.

Why Have a Bucket List?

Wellness Warrior, you know that purpose is paramount in my life, and I’m a firm believer that, as we enter our senior years, we need to identify—and continue to refine—what that purpose is, what gets us up every morning. And, a bucket list can be a fun way to live in your purpose. It’s also a great way of focusing on what you really want out of life and motivating yourself to go after it.

Creating Your Bucket List

There are many things that can distract and sidetrack us from reaching our goals, so just as you would do with any other goals you have, be sure to write your bucket list down. Writing it down will help keep it in the forefront of your priorities along with the other things you have to do. You don’t want it to get pushed to the backburner.

Also, before sitting down to write out your list, it can be helpful to take a few quiet, reflective moments to think about who you are, what your passions are, and, yes, what your capabilities are. This will go a long way in creating a list of the choices that are right for you.

While the internet is filled with ideas on things to add to your bucket list, especially as a senior, here are a few categories I find particularly engaging.

Travel

This is probably one of the most popular things people think about when creating their bucket. I love to travel all over the world, and I am grateful to have been able to do it in my life.

Visiting or living abroad can be thrilling. You get to experience new cultures, foods, and ways of living. Even traveling to places closer to home gives you the chance to see things you’ve only seen in magazines or online.

Some fun travel ideas include:

  • Go on a road trip in a convertible.
  • Go to a place of historical significance (e.g., war sites).
  • See the Northern Lights.
  • Swim in the ocean.
  • Visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Go on a safari.
  • Go to a sporting event that you’ve always wanted to see (e.g., Wimbledon, the Tour de France).
  • Go to a spiritual site of importance to you.

Do Something “Adventurous”

OK, so while this could include adrenaline-pumping activities, like sky diving or bungy jumping, this can also be those things that you just never did before because you worried about what could go wrong or what other people would think of you.

Fun and adventurous ideas include:

  • Indoor skydiving
  • Ziplining
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Have an up-close-and-personal experience with an exotic animal (e.g., penguins, elephants, etc.).
  • Change your hair color.
  • Do karaoke (in public).
  • Take a ride in a hot air balloon.
  • Go skinny dipping.

Volunteer/Help Someone Out

Whether it’s volunteering with an organization or simply doing something for someone else, there are few things that feel better than the “helper’s high” (that rush of good feelings from doing something nice or as a surprise for someone). Maybe you’ve always wanted to throw your friend a surprise party or pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. Well, here’s your chance to do it.

Here are a few ways to feel that helper’s high and make a difference in others’ lives as well:

  • Paint rocks with positive words on them and leave them around town.
  • Give your restaurant server or hairdresser a really large tip.
  • Pay a stranger a compliment.
  • Pay for someone else’s meal in a restaurant (e.g., a single parent with children).
  • Participate in a walk/run for a charity.
  • Sponsor a local child’s camp tuition.
  • Sponsor a child overseas.
  • Take treats to the local fire department, police department, or hospital to support first responders.

Go Back in Time

You’ve probably seen the movie Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox travels back in time and meets his parents during their high school years. Well, time travel in the DeLorean only worked in the movie, but wouldn’t it be fun to revisit some of your past? Or maybe to learn more about your heritage?

Here are a few things you can add to your back-to-the-future bucket list:

  • Study your genealogy.
  • Contact a childhood friend.
  • Go back to where you and your spouse honeymooned.
  • Write a journal about where you grew up or your childhood memories.
  • Attend high school reunions.
  • Review your high school yearbook and fulfill a dream you had back then.
  • Create a family tree.
  • Visit the place where your family is from (perhaps overseas).

Learn a New Skill
We all know the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you’re not a dog! If I’ve learned nothing else from the many amazing residents of Aegis Living, it’s that you’re never too old to learn! What things did you always wish you knew how to do, but never had time to do?

Here are just a few new things you can learn:

  • Take cooking classes.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Learn how to knit or crochet and make baby blankets to donate to the local hospital.
  • Learn how to grow vegetables.
  • Learn a new sport or game.
  • Learn how to juggle (balls, not your schedule).
  • Learn magic tricks.
  • Take art classes at your local community college.

This list could go on and on!

For Caregivers

One final word for those of you who might be caregivers to a loved one: If your loved one isn’t able (physically, emotionally, or financially) to check off the items on their bucket list, get creative! If Mom’s dream is to dine on the Champs-Élysées, but she can’t handle the trip to Paris, maybe get dressed up and take her to a nice French restaurant. Or plan an afternoon of wine and cheese or French pastries and French music in the background. Speak with a French accent! With just a little imagination, you can whisk your mom off to Paris without leaving town.

So what are you waiting for? Give it some thought, then come up with your list. Write it down and keep adding to it. Then live your life with purpose and have fun checking off the items on your bucket list!

Until next time Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne


Being a Storyteller…Through the Lens

As an author, I know the power of the written word. But I have to say, there is something undeniably powerful about hearing someone tell their story with their own voice and in their own words…seeing a heart-felt tear roll down their cheek or the smile that’s in their eyes as they recount a special moment. It’s utterly captivating. True Productions is a production company I founded that looks for these stories and finds ways to tell them through the camera lens.

In the last few years, we’ve been involved with a number of such impactful stories. Here are three that I’d like to share with you today.

Here’s a brief background on each one.

Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story

Spencer Haywood went from picking cotton in rural Mississippi to being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Along the way, he won Olympic gold, married one of the most famous supermodels in the world, and dominated professional basketball.

But he had to fight every step of the way—for his civil rights, against addiction, and even against the NBA itself. 

In 1970, young Haywood challenged the NBA’s “four-year rule,” which stated that players could not enter the league until they were four years removed from high school. Because of this, young, poor players were excluded from the business of basketball. Haywood’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and his victory forever changed professional basketball. But Haywood paid a price for making waves. The case overshadowed his stand-out stints with the Sonics, Knicks, and Lakers, and Haywood was ostracized for many years. 

Full Court seamlessly parallels Haywood’s personal and professional struggles with the civil-rights struggles of the time. His untold, human-interest story will come to life through rare archival video, photography, and music. Interviews with Haywood’s peers and talented, young players—for whom he paved the way—will bring this compelling documentary full circle. The story culminates with Haywood’s long overdue enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Released in 2016, you can find FULL COURT exclusively on Amazon.

Thin Skin: A True Story about Keeping It Together

Ahamefule Joe Oluo’s days are spent at a soul-deadening corporate job, and his nights come alive behind a trumpet at Seattle jazz clubs.

As he struggles to climb out of the ruins of his broken marriage, Aham has to deal with endless bureaucracy, a boss trying to lead him to the Lord, and a mother who refuses to cut ties with his ex.

After losing his home, Aham is living with his entire family once again. Aham’s older sister, Ijeoma, has reluctantly opened up her one-bedroom apartment to Aham and his two young daughters, along with their mother, a well-meaning white lady from Kansas, and her array of caged animals. The one person missing from this living situation is Aham and Ijeoma’s estranged Nigerian father. He left the family when the children were young and headed back to his village to start over again. He is the ghost in this cramped family living situation.  

One day, the ghost makes contact after years of silence. This sends the family into a mad scramble for meaning. Pressed together in this vise of a home, the family struggles with adult life and the meaning of family.

Thin Skin, a music-infused drama about keeping it together when you’re falling apart, is based on the award-winning autobiographical Off-Broadway show, “Now I’m Fine” and the This American Life story, “The Wedding Crasher.” It recently premiered (virtually) at the 2020 Bentonville Film Festival.

CBD Nation

Featuring the world’s leading experts in cannabis science and medicine—including acclaimed Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., the “father of cannabis research” whose 1960s discovery of THC jump-started the medical and scientific revolution around cannabis—CBD Nation offers a compelling look at 60 years’ worth of published and ongoing research. 

CBD Nation marries a wealth of scientific breakthroughs with first-person narratives. You’ll be pulled-in, as you hear the emotional stories of patients for whom CBD is a life-saving medicine, including 14-year-old Rylie Maedler, six-year-old Jayden David, and U.S. Army Veteran Colin Wells.

CBD Nation tells the authentic origin story of CBD…how it took sick kids like Jayden David, Rylie Maedler, and the late Charlotte Figi becoming messengers for this plant in order for mainstream society to acknowledge its potential as medicine,” shares cannabis industry consultant and strategic advisor, Andrew DeAngelo. “It is a story about human biology, human rights, and the ultimate victory of truth and science, which could not be more relevant today.”

This ground-breaking film releases on August 25, 2020, and is available via Amazon, iTunes, and other video-on-demand channels.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share in the mission to create experiences that bring people together to discover exceptional films from around the world. We live in a world with amazing people who have extraordinary stories to tell. I’m honored to help be their storyteller.

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne


What Is Your Leadership DNA Made up Of?

What are some of the qualities that make up your leadership DNA? Do those qualities go out the window when you’re under pressure? Or maybe during a crisis such as this COVID-19 pandemic?

I recently sat down for a Q&A session that focused on leading during a crisis such as this pandemic. Here’s another excerpt from it.

Host:

We’ve been talking about leadership in times of crisis, and I love what you’ve been saying about leading with vulnerability, leading with commitment from the CEO level and focusing on health and how your employees are functioning and feeling and feeling connected. But again, those things work all the time. When we talk right now about getting through a crisis, can you sum up what you think leaders right now, regardless of their industry, should be focusing on in the next 6-18 months to get through this?

Dwayne J. Clark

Well, I’m just going to comment on the first part of your narrative first because, you know, this shouldn’t be like a first date with our employees. And what I mean by that is, when it’s your first date, you get the best haircut, you dress up, get your car detailed, and you take them to the best restaurant. And the second date kind of goes downhill from there and so on. These things have to be in your in your leadership DNA, right? It’s the consistency of these programs, whether it’s about wellness, vulnerability, trust, or safety. It’s just got to be who you are. Because if you take a first-date mentality to leadership and your employees, people are not going to trust you, right? They’re going to say, “Oh, that was true when I first came the company, but it’s not true now.” “We used to do this a year ago, but we don’t do it now.” It’s the consistency that develops the relationship. So I think consistency is important, so don’t take the first-date mentality.

With reference to what’s CEOs should do right now, there are a variety of things. First of all, life safety is more important now than it ever has been, right? And no profit, no share earnings, no stock report—nothing—is worth risking one life, right? So you have to just be so focused on human life, and human contact, wearing a mask, social distancing, disinfecting, technology, and all those things that you can do to just protect human life. So that should be way out in the front for anyone in any business. I don’t care if you own a restaurant, a technology firm, or an assisted living facility, that’s got to be front and center.

The second thing, because we’re dealing in a complex situation right now, is you just need to sit back and listen. You need to ask the questions, whether it’s about Black Lives Matter, or immigration, or politics and which side of the aisle you’re on, you sit back and listen. And, I like to think of my 3,000 employees like a big family, where we get around the table and we say, Hey, I value that you disagree with me, I really do. I want to hear what you have to say. You don’t have to align with my thinking.

In fact, I want a company that’s not of one opinion. I want a company that does disagree with me, because at the end of the day, we are all going to be better for it. Now, we’re going to do that in a respectful way. We’re going to do that in a professional way. And we’re going to come out of the other side of this with some kind of stance on these difficult issues.

That’s what I think CEOs should do. You shouldn’t sit in your boardroom with your five key staff and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re going to do,” without listening. It’s probably the wrong answer if you do.

Host:

What do you want to say right now, as a leader? What do you think is the most important thing that people need to hear from you right now?

Dwayne J. Clark

I think people just need to take a breath. I think we are all good people at our core. We all want basically the same things in life, right? We want our own safety. We want our kids to have good lives. We want to have some kind of success in our professional lives, and so on. And I think right now people have a magnifying glass out for the differences between people instead of magnifying glass that finds the similarities.

And I think that’s what leadership does. It takes people with varying degrees of opinion and focuses on the similarities, not the differences. The differences make the culture, the country, the business stronger because you knit together a variety of opinions and come up with a very eclectic kind of end result. When I want to hire people, I like to hire people from really good companies not from my own industry. Rarely, if almost ever, do we hire people from our industry. I love hiring people from the Starbucks or the Amazons or the Googles of the world. And I call it the making a quilt. And what I mean by that is if you think about a patchwork quilt, and one of the patches is Google, and Microsoft, and the Ritz Carlton, and the Four Seasons, all those companies have very different philosophies in how they manage, hire, recruit, train, perform services, develop products, and so on. But it’s that intelligence that comes together, that’s united, and the assembly of that creates something very powerful.

That’s what leaders need to do. They need to take all the intelligence they have with their employees and assemble something that’s a very powerful forward-moving force. And again, right now, people are focusing too much on our differences and not enough our similarities and our strengths.

Stay Strong

In unusual times like these COVID-19 times, it’s especially important to continue to be a strong leader. But many of the qualities that make you a strong leader under non-crisis conditions are the same qualities that make you a strong leader in a crisis. Keep your employees first, focus on similarities, and listen.

To catch the entire webinar and find out more about how to lead during COVID-19 and in general, watch here!

Until next time, live well, live long, and lead like you mean it!!

~Dwayne


Leading with Creativity and Excellence During Times of Crisis

Leading during any time of crisis can challenge and stretch your abilities as a leader to effectively keep the ship on course and to keep the crew fully behind you. Leading during this pandemic has been especially trying for those in healthcare and senior care industries.

Recently, I sat down for an informative Q & A session about how to lead during a crisis. I know that question is being addressed a lot out there, and I wanted to share a few snippets of our discussion with you here.

Host:

I see you’re in your home office, which is where we all seem to find ourselves these days. You know, I’m really excited today to talk about leadership and leading through crisis. I know that that word crisis is thrown around a lot right now. But even months into the crisis, people are still looking for ways to manage, get through, get better, and prosper. And I think you’ve got some really fantastic ideas around this and certainly the proof of what you guys are doing there at Aegis Living. So for people who don’t know Aegis and haven’t yet heard you, can you tell me a little bit about Aegis? Who are they? What do they do? What do you guys focus on?

Dwayne J. Clark

Yeah, so Aegis Living has been around for 23 years, and we have around 42 luxury senior housing facilities, primarily taking people with dementia and assisted living needs. We’re approaching 3000 staff members, and we have probably about $3 billion in real estate assets. It’s a privately-owned family owned company, and I am the founder. And it’s a company that’s often referred to as the number one in our category. We’re very focused on culture, and so we get a lot of interviews and a lot of brand awareness around how we treat people and the uniqueness of our culture. We’ve been voted best company to work for multiple times—I think it’s 12 or 13 times—by a variety of different periodicals. We were, at one point, one of the top five fastest growing companies in the nation, and we’re always one of the one of the biggest family-owned businesses in Washington state.

But I think I’m most proud of the fact that our culture is so unique. We were the first healthcare company in the history of Glassdoor to be ranked as a Glassdoor Top 50 company. And that’s out of 650,000 companies that were nominated. So, I’m most proud of the fact that we have a very employee-first and progressive culture. And I think that bleeds into our service, how we care for staff, how we care for our residents, how we treat our families. It’s also the stance we take on political issues, the stance we take on things like Black Lives Matter or immigration or whatever, because we really care about people. That’s our business. We don’t make widgets. We’re not selling products on Amazon. We’re taking care of human lives and that’s the most prestigious and worthy job anyone on this planet could ever have. So I’m very proud of our company.

Host

Indeed! As you should be!

So, you’ve got thousands of staff members. You’ve got more new things in development. When have you, as a leader, gone through something like this pandemic where you had to be so creative?

Well, there was a lot of fear during the 9/11 situation where people didn’t know if you were going to be bombed or you know what was going to happen.

And then we had the Great Recession. And, most people, especially the baby boomers, had never been through a huge economic crisis. They’d been through some minor downturns where the stock market corrected, or interest rates went into inflation, or gas prices soared, but never had been through a six-year recession. And, you know, that was one of those things where you just have to say, Hey, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. My mom used to say, “Keep walking through the darkness and you will eventually find light.” And so you have to keep walking through the darkness because eventually you’ll find light. And I think that’s where we are today.

When you get in a crisis like this, I think profit goes out the window. Your first concern always has to be the safety of your staff and your residents. And so we assigned process owners for all the vital issues, like technology, PPE (personal protective equipment) acquisition, communication strategy, people who looked into disinfecting protocols, people who work with the CDC, people who work with all our local research agencies. And, in fact, Seattle has some of the most phenomenal research agencies in the world, including the Fred Hutchinson Society, University of Washington, and the Institute of Disease Modeling (IDM), some of which provide institutional modeling for the White House. So, we started contacting these people, and said, “We want to be the smartest company and the safest company United States around COVID. How do we do that?”

And so, one of the things we did was form a virus council (the Aegis Living Coronavirus Advisory Council). We went out and got some of the smartest, most intellectual professionals around on this subject and we formed this council of seven people, including virologists, people who are working on vaccines, psychologists, geriatric specialists, and even a traditional Chinese medicine physician (because herbs have been a big treatment in China with helping people survive COVID). So we formed this very eclectic virus council. And it’s been brilliant.

And so, as a leader, you have to pivot in times like this. If you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m going to go back to the way I was managing 100 days ago,” you’re going to be left in the dust. You really have to be smart and think about how to take advantage of the situation—not to make more profit—but in the sense that, I’m going to be the smartest I can possibly be about this issue. And, that takes creativity. I mean, we had to design outdoor visitation living room spaces using Plexiglas so people could come and visit their loved ones. We pivoted and designed Zoom rooms, for people to visit via video calls. Now we’re working on a hugging platform where you can reach through this plexiglass and, through the sleeves like you’d see in a neonatal unit, hug your family member because human contact and touch is so important, right?

So I think in these days and times, Aegis is no different than a lot of companies. The only thing I think is different is how we approach this, and we approach it in a very, very creative way, and we do it very aggressively.

Next Time

Our Q & A session ran for nearly an hour, so there’s no way to include all that we discussed in one blog. Join me next time when I’ll share my thoughts on additional essential points to leading in and out of crises. But, if you can’t wait until then, here’s the link to the full webinar recording.

Until next time, live well, live long, and lead like you mean it !!

~Dwayne


Mom Is Upset Because I Vacuumed Her Bedroom

“Mom, I’m sorry. I was only trying to help.”

Apologies are always good, especially when you don’t realize you have crossed an invisible line. And, you may have crossed a few since your parents moved in with you during the pandemic. Today, I’d like to talk about these invisible lines and how to make them more visible. Namely, setting some good, ol’ fashioned boundaries.

Seniors want the choice to ask for help. You may think you’re doing your parents a huge favor by cooking for them, doing their laundry, and making their beds, but you may also be causing them to feel a bit worthless. Your parents don’t want to feel like a burden or lose their dignity. Plus, they may not want you to see their dirty laundry (both mental and physical). You were a teenager once. So, how do you set these boundaries without seeming harsh or uncaring?

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is key! It’s important to have a positive conversation about how things work in your house on a daily basis. After all, everyday living is very different from when they visit at the holidays.

Do this soon after (or even before) your parents move in. And if they’ve already settled in, and you’ve already crossed a few of those invisible lines, it still isn’t too late. Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and chat. Let them know you want to help, but that you don’t want to cross any boundaries, and you feel it’s good to find out what those boundaries are.

  • Be respectful. It may be hard for your parents to have to move in with you during this time, and they may already be feeling a little “less than.” It’s especially hard for your tough-as-nails Dad or your I-can-do-anything Mom to accept that this is what’s best right now. Treating them like the adults they are is a great way to show your love and respect.
  • Find out how you can be helpful. Ask what “chores” they would prefer to do themselves and what you can do because “you’re doing them anyway.” Maybe Mom prefers to do her laundry because she sometimes has accidents and doesn’t want you to see that. Or maybe Dad prefers to make his bed because no one can make it just the way he likes it. Unless your parents are physically-challenged, know that there are things they’ve been doing most of their adult lives that they would still prefer to do themselves.
  • Be gentle but firm. This conversation shouldn’t be a stern, “it’s my way or the highway” one, but rather is a chance to find out how to best live together. There will likely be a little give and take, but at the end of the day, it’s essential to reach agreements.

Boundaries Go Both Ways

What you discuss with your parents when establishing boundaries may be slightly different based on your specific situation, but you’ll want to be sure to cover these five common topics:

It’s also important, when chatting with your parents, to share any boundaries that you have. Remember, they don’t want to feel like a burden and want to contribute to what’s going on in the house. It gives them a sense of purpose to be able to participate in household activities.

But you might need to gently remind them that you are your children’s parent and that you and your spouse set the rules for them. You may also need to tell Dad that if he’s going to use any tools, he needs to put away when he finishes.

5 Areas to Set Positive Boundaries

What you discuss with your parents when establishing boundaries may be slightly different based on your specific situation, but you’ll want to be sure to cover these five common topics:

1. “KP Duty” – Though it’s not a widely-used term used today, your parents will most likely understand that KP duty is Kitchen Patrol! It’s essential to set a few rules around cooking and your kitchen. Perhaps this is an area that you could really use their help, especially if you’re working from home, and your children’s summer camps have been canceled. Or, maybe Mom has always been the cook in the kitchen, but her liver-and-onions is not on your kids’ most-requested list.

Talking through this and clearly identifying roles helps run a smooth kitchen. Maybe mom can fix dinner one or two nights a week. This will give her a chance to still feel like she’s contributing and do something she loves. The key here is to come to an agreement and then to stick to it.

2. Cleaning/Laundry – Again, having a simple conversation about who’s responsible for what helps to keep things moving smoothly. If Mom insists on doing her laundry, then let her (provided she’s physically able). While cleaning your parents’ room may bring you great joy now, remember that mom cleaning your room as a teenager did anything but bring you joy. If they decline your offer, respect their wishes.

3. Bathrooms – Yes, you may need to discuss a bathroom schedule, especially if several of you share one or two bathrooms. While they may have a need to sometimes go with little warning, discuss general times when others in your house need the bathroom (like evening baths for the little ones or time in the morning to prepare for work).

4. Activities – If your cable box doesn’t currently have a DVR, now may be the time to get one. With many people all wanting to watch the same TV, it’s important that everyone gets to see their shows, even if they’re watching them later. Yes, Jeopardy comes on in the evening, but perhaps your parents would be willing to watch it in the afternoon when no one else is watching TV. Maybe you can watch your favorite HGTV show after Dad’s live sporting event goes off.

Get creative, whether it’s the TV or other activates in the house, find the compromise that works.

5. Privacy – Make sure everyone in the house is tuned-in on issues of privacy. Again, your parents may not wish for you to see their dirty laundry—physical or otherwise. They also need to understand that they can’t just walk into a bathroom without knocking. Again, just getting clear on expectations of what’s ok and what’s not will help keep your home a happy one.

Don’t assume that your parents know how your house runs day-in and day-out.  Respectfully address possible issues upfront and set a few ground rules that help clarify expectations. Check in with them every two weeks or so to see how things are going for them (they may not want to rock the boat by speaking up) and revisit any ground rules that might need tweaking.

Positive communication really does go a long way to keep things running smoothly. I hope you are making the most of this unusual time together with your parents.

Until next time, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne

That Fish Gets Bigger Every Time Dad Tells That Story!

We all know that the fish in a story is never as big as the storyteller says it is—unless there’s a picture to prove it. But storytelling is something your parents are probably great at—and they have many stories to share.

If your parents are living with you during the pandemic, now is the PERFECT TIME for them to gather the family around and share. Grandparents are the keepers of family stories. They are a living bridge between past generations and future ones—think about it, they are at the center of five generations. Unfortunately, few families hold on to more than a couple of generations of these precious links to the past. Unless someone in the family tells the stories, they are tragically lost, and with it, a piece of the family’s soul and identity. Maintaining and passing on the family stories is a precious gift that grandparents can give to their grandchildren.

Let the Adventure—or Stories—Begin

Think about it. Grandparents are the perfect ones to tell your kids about the day their daddy was born—and how it was the most amazing day of their lives, even if he was all wrinkly and looked a bit like Yoda. They can share how purely magical it was when each of them was born.

I’ve heard it said—and absolutely agree—that grandparents can share a peek behind your family’s curtain in a way that only they can.

So get creative. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few of my favorites.

Great stories for your parents to tell include…

  • How they met, fell in love, and got married. Was it love at first sight? Did they get nervous before their first date? What was their wedding like?
  • What it was like going to school back “in the olden days.” What did they and their friends do? Were they in clubs or play sports? Did they ride the bus or walk to school? What was their favorite and least favorite subjects?
  • The day you were born and the day each of your children were born—minus the labor and birthing details. How did they feel becoming parents? And how much more special did it feel each time one of their grands was born?
  • What their parents and grandparents were like. What did they do?
  • What some of their favorite childhood memories are. What were their summers like? What things did they do? Did they have hobbies?
  • What their first job or their favorite job was. This could be especially interesting if they did something that is done very differently nowadays. What did they like about it? What were some of the important things they learned from it?
  • Other special events in your family’s history.

The Interview Game

Another fun and interactive way to have your parents share stories is to have your children interview them. You can incorporate it into a family night like described above, or it can be a great dinner conversation-starter. Last November, before the holidays (and long before the pandemic), my company, Aegis Living, posted 45 great (and sometimes silly) questions that your kids can ask your parents. Be sure to check out the full article, but here are a few of my favorite questions:

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. How did your family spend time together when you were young?
  3. What is the earliest memory that you have?
  4. What is your favorite thing about being a grandparent?
  5. What makes you happy?
  6. Where have you traveled? What is your favorite city to visit? Do you have a favorite family vacation memory?
  7. Would you rather be able to breathe underwater like a fish or fly like a bird?
  8. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
  9. Would you rather play in the sand or play in the snow?
  10. What is your favorite thing to do?

Caption This Picture

Another fun thing to do is grab the old photo albums (yours or your parents’) and have your parents pick a few pictures and tell the stories behind them. It’s fun if you can ask your kids to come up with a caption first before you tell the story. That gets them involved and is usually good for a few belly-laughs!

Capture Your History

You can do many other fun things to learn and share your family history while your parents are living with you. Compile with a family cookbook, with lots of family favorites, both old and new. Create a family tree; there are certainly plenty of genealogy resources online. You can also compile an electronic photo album of old family pictures. Make sure to record names, dates, locations, and short stories about the pics.

COVID-19 has certainly handed us all a bowl of lemons, but there are plenty of ways to make tasty lemonade from it. You probably weren’t expecting to have your parents living with you this year, but I hope you are making the absolute most of this special time together.

I also hope you’ve found this series of blogs on your parents living with you during the pandemic helpful. Next time, I’ll discuss how to set boundaries for happier parents and a happier you. It will be the last in the series, so you don’t want to miss it!

Until then, Live Well, Live Long, Wellness Warriors!

~Dwayne