Thanksgiving is usually a time to come together with family or friends, share a meal and enjoy some socialization. The theme of the holiday is gratitude, and the meal may even start with everyone going around the table and saying what they are thankful for. This year, consider adding to this tradition by using the technique of reminiscing to create a conversation that will bond the generations at the table.

There is a theory of psychosocial development that explains that reminiscence and life review is a normal process in later life. It allows people to review their past experiences and accomplishments, and come to terms with the present day. It is also a wonderful way to share stories and memories with the younger generation. It allows the traditions and wisdom of the past to be preserved and carry on as part of your legacy.

Ask your family to go around the table and share their favorite tradition or memory of Thanksgiving as a child, teen, and adult. It is fun to see how the things we remember and carry meaning for us change as we age. See if anyone’s favorite memories overlap. Use this as a time to notice the similarities and enjoy those familiar bonds.

The conversation may even remind you all of past traditions that you would like to start again. If something is no longer done, this an opportunity to talk about why. Perhaps a favorite relative who is no longer living always managed a certain tradition or meal. As a group you can fondly remember and pay homage to that relative now.

You may be surprised by what some people say. It is a chance to learn more about each other and what is important to you. Your family may learn new things about your past, as well. Enjoy the time sharing together and keep the focus on the positive memories.

Reminiscence as a topic will focus the day on traditions and joyful times, and not allow room for difficult topics like politics and other opinions that may sometimes hinder the gathering.

Reminiscence is also important when you have multiple generations together for the holidays. It ensures that the older adults in the room have a chance to share and be valued for their memories. By going around the table and asking each person to answer a question it also ensures only one person is talking at one time, and that everyone has a chance to participate.

This is also very helpful for anyone with hearing loss. Being a table with many people having conversations at once can make it impossible to hear or follow along if you have any hearing loss or even memory loss.

Even If you are not getting together in person you can connect over memories over the phone or on Zoom.

The holiday season brings up memories which can be both wonderful and difficult. This is especially true when grief is involved in those memories. It can be easy to try and avoid them or focus on the negative feelings that arise. Take this opportunity to keep the good memories alive and pass them down to your family. Maybe this idea of reminiscing will become a new tradition that your family carries on.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at


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