Sunday, January 15, 2006

reminiscence (structured life review)

Reminiscence, which was once considered merely a "natural" process of nostalgic storytelling by old people, was first recognized as a valuable psychological life review process by Dr. Robert N. Butler, a psychiatrist, former head of the National Institute on Aging, and now chief of geriatric services at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Apparently related to the late-life task of developing "ego-integrity," described by developmental psychiatrist Erik Erikson, the process of reminiscence may be related to the effort of individuals to see their lives as a whole-as having had value-and therefore to maintain self-esteem. In therapeutic situations the Structured Life Review is guided by a formal set of questions, which ask about life events and family of the individual; what experiences were unpleasant and what pleasant; work done; things he or she might change or leave unchanged; and so on. Family members can lend support to a life review process if they ask similar kinds of questions and then take time to listen to the responses. This may have reciprocal value for family members-it can help to give them their own sense of rootedness in the past.
Haight, Barbara K. "The Therapeutic Role of a Structured Life Review Process in Homebound Elderly Subjects." J. of Gerontology Vol. 43, No.2. p. 40-44 (1988).
Lester, A. D. and Lester J. L. Understanding Aging Parents. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1980.
Western, Leone Noble. The Gold Key to Writing Your Life History. Port Angeles, Wash.: Peninsula Publishing Inc., 1981.

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