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Prime Time: Growing older? Continue making memories

Life is short. Time flies by. How did we get to be so old so fast? How is it we still feel young when our wrinkles tell us that we are not? Now that the main goals of life have been accomplished - life becomes serious. An absolutely awful thought confronts us, "What do I do with my time now that I no longer have duties and obligations of child-rearing or the demands of a career to attend to?"

-- Make memories.

That's it - make memories! Making memories lasts a lifetime. The responsibility of older age is to continue to make memories. It isn't something you outgrow or outlive. There is no resting on laurels or sitting back on a couch resting. There is work to be done - making more memories for ourselves and others.

Happy people have happy memories. You need to make personal memories for another time when the memories themselves will warm your soul.

-- Memories for yourselves.

What is it in life you still want to experience? What are your goals? Bonds deepen when you do something novel and arousing with a friend, spouse or loved one. Is it going on a cruise? Going to a national park? Hawaii? Alaska?

Going to concerts or the theater?

Is it reading a memorable book? Attending a sports contest? Listening to great music? Is it square dancing? Attending a gathering of cowboy poets? Or being a poet?

Is it pursuing a hobby that leaves a tangible memory of your artistic expression, handiwork or craftsmanship? Is it hosting memorable events in your home? Make memories to last a lifetime.

How do you make memories that last? How do we keep from having one day blur into the next? What can we do that is memorable enough to be worth remembering?

Making memories takes work, imagination and creativity. It means focusing, planning ahead and making things happen. Don't be a grump, a stick-in-the-mud or stay glued to the TV.

Money in the bank doesn't translate into memories. Money gives you more freedom to have certain experiences to make memories, but some of the best memories don't require money. They are the gifts of your time and heart.

-- Memories for others.

Making memories is even more fun when you do them for others. Love the grandchildren. Do things with them. Find time to have them to yourself. Share your wisdom, values and your love. Let them get to know what it is like to have a grandparent adore them and make them feel special.

-- Give good gifts.

Give gifts that have meaning. Give away your treasures along with the stories that go with them. Don't wait until you're gone. Part with your collections and your memorabilia and you'll create a visual reminder of yourself and the relationship you had with them.

-- Share your talents and interests.

Teach them a skill from the kitchen or from the shop that they will use over a lifetime. They will always remember who taught them the skill that brings them so much joy and comfort.

E Give service to others.

Be known for your generosity of spirit. You'll be remembered for your acts of loving service. People will remember you for your goodness and kindness. It is the consistency of daily acts of love and your character that make lasting memories.

-- Relieve burdens.

Take over for busy parents while they find a bit of time for themselves. Serve in your church. Help a friend. Help a stranger. Find a worthy cause. Your acts of service to others will leave a legacy of love more permanent than eulogies and inscriptions on stone.

-- Make memories that last beyond a lifetime.

There is an expression, "If it isn't written, it didn't happen." I suppose in our day we could add photography, audio and video recordings to that list. Part of making memories is literally making them. Don't depend on other people's memories to preserve your memory.

Tell stories of your lives. Tell of your trials and hardships. Tell of the time when you had to be courageous or strong. Tell of your special memories of those dear to you.

Scraps of paper and heirlooms don't do it. Tell the stories that go with them. Without stories, these things will be surely thrown out. If you are not too busy making memories for yourself or others, this project is worthy of your time and will preserve your memories.

Sorting through the memories of a lifetime brings its own peace and comfort. Don't be afraid of the emotional journey back through time. Your tears and your joy will educate you and your loved ones on what had meaning.

Your lives will reverberate through your posterity if you leave a record of who you were. Your stories need to be preserved. Write an autobiography. Keep a journal. Invite a child or grandchild to take your oral history. Don't be modest, shy or ashamed. Tell it as it is or was. Describe the events that changed your life.

For older couples in your retirement years, you have a special responsibility. Continue to make new memories, make lasting memories, or preserve your memories for succeeding generations.

This week we are making memories at a family reunion in St. Louis that will include all of our 21 grandchildren. No matter how stressful or what happens this week, there is one thing we can count on, it will be memorable.

For more information on aging and retirement, you can visit my website at


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist who specializes in rural mental health and family relationships.