The Reminiscing Generation: Why Memories Matter

| January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

The Reminiscing Generation: Why Memories Matter

By Beth N. Carvin

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved biographies and life stories. I read the entire set of female biographies in my elementary school library. The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, was my favorite childhood movie. I collected old postcards not just for the pictures on the front but for the little life notes that people wrote to one another. This affinity for life histories and memories has only grown stronger as the years have passed.

While I’ve had a successful career as an entrepreneur in the technology industry, I continued as a hobbyist in nostalgia and became what some might call a hoarder when it comes to memories. Several years ago my extended family began a group email. Conversations turned to the bar in Boston that my grandfather owned, complete with an engrossing series of stories from my dad and uncles about the barmaids, the keys to the liquor cabinet, and some visits by the local police.  I was not only fascinated by the stories but also was struck by the joy the family was getting in both recounting and hearing the memories. This led to the realization that there was no technology specifically designed to make it easier to reminisce and organize one’s memories.

Fast-forward a couple of years to the launch of JamBios, a free social platform that I co-created to help people enjoy remembering and sharing their favorite memories with friends and family. I was inspired to add a collaborative component by my experiences watching how individual memories are enhanced as they are layered with contributions from others who were part of the story. I realized that enabling people to crowdsource their memories, much like Wikipedia crowdsources its entries, would enrich the process immeasurably.

And so we built JamBios to allow both individual and collaborative reminiscing while also providing an easy chapter-based framework for capturing memories. Users can choose from over 100 chapter topics ranging from love crushes to summer vacations and also add their own. Our digital biographer “Monty,” voiced by Henry Ian Cusick from the TV series Lost, is there to ask trigger questions to help unlock the memories. Users can invite others to contribute and/or read their memories for each section, add photos and audio or video links and write as much or as little as they choose.

I knew from my own experience that people would enjoy remembering and reminiscing. But what I hadn’t realized was how meaningful this would be to the Baby Boomer generation to which I belong. Here’s what I’ve learned since the platform went live in mid-2017.

It’s time to bridge our memories.

Many Boomers find themselves at a crossroads in our lives. Parents are beginning to pass away, while children are becoming adults and starting their own families. This might not be every Baby Boomer’s story, but we can all relate to the need to fill in the missing links and pass our stories on to the next generation. If we don’t communicate our history and memories, who will?

We are the nostalgic generation.  

The past is a feel-good place for many people over 50 – the generation that was never going to grow old. Boomers like me can happily spend hours thinking back and revisiting the days of childhood, school days, first pets, favorite bands and those times when our relationships were new and our kids were small. Writing, sharing and hearing how friends and family remember those times creates a great escape from the stresses of modern life as well as a rewarding refresher on the way we were.

It’s getting harder to remember.

Some of us have very strong memories of the past, while others have lots of gaps. Actively writing memories not only retains stories that we might forget later, but also helps trigger memories that we thought we had forgotten. That is especially true when reminiscing is done collaboratively. My dad and uncle both remember growing up in the bar in Boston but each remembered different parts of the story. They both enjoyed being reminded of details they had forgotten.

Revisiting the past can be healing.

People with memory deficits from injury, illness or trauma can benefit from sitting down to document incidents or elements of their personal histories. It’s been remarkable to hear from JamBios users who have found that the platform has helped them unearth memories that previously were buried. Others have shared with us the catharsis they have experienced in writing their more painful memories from the past.

If you are a Baby Boomer or someone who enjoys reminiscing, I encourage you to try writing down and sharing your memories. It’s not just a fun exercise but also one that can lead to deeper recall, new insights, and surprising revelations from friends and relatives familiar with the incidents you’re writing about. The past may be a foreign country, as the saying goes, but it can be a wonderful and even a healthy place to visit as we age.     

Beth N. CarvinBeth N. Carvin is CEO and co-founder of JamBios (www.jambios.com), a collaborative writing application and social platform for sharing and preserving memories.

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