How to cap­ture your elders’ sto­ries on video

Yuma Sun - - DESERT LIFE - Savvy Se­nior Jim Miller

DEAR SAVVY SE­NIOR — I am in­ter­ested in mak­ing a video of my 82-year-old par­ents’ life story/legacy and how they want to be re­mem­bered. With the hol­i­days ap­proach­ing, I thought this could be a neat gift to my older sib­lings, but I could use some help. What can you tell me? — Youngest of five

DEAR YOUNGEST — A per­sonal record­ing of your par­ents’ life story could be a won­der­ful hol­i­day gift and some­thing you and your fam­ily could cher­ish the rest of your lives. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

What you’ll need

Your first step is to find out if your par­ents are will­ing to make a legacy video, which would en­tail you ask­ing them a num­ber of thought­ful ques­tions about their life in an in­ter­view for­mat in front of a video record­ing de­vice. If they are, all you’ll need is a smart­phone or cam­corder and a list of ques­tions or prompts to get them talk­ing.

Record­ing equip­ment

If you have a smart­phone, mak­ing a video of your par­ents’ story is sim­ple and free.

How­ever, you may want to in­vest in a “smart­phone tri­pod” to hold the phone while you con­duct the in­ter­view, and a “smart­phone ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone,” which would im­prove the au­dio qual­ity.

You can find th­ese types of prod­ucts at Ama­zon.com for un­der $20.

Most smart­phones to­day have good qual­ity cam­eras and have the abil­ity to edit/ trim out the parts you don’t want. Or you can down­load a free video-edit­ing app like Mag­isto or Adobe Pre­miere Clip that can help you cus­tom­ize your video.

If you want a higher qual­ity video, con­sider pur­chas­ing an HD cam­corder. Sony, Pana­sonic and Canon are the top-rated brands, ac­cord­ing to Con­sumer Re­ports.

Th­ese can run any­where from a few hun­dred dol­lars up to $1,000 or more.

Ques­tions and prompts

To help you pre­pare a list of ques­tions for your par­ents’ video in­ter­view, go to “Have the Talk of a Life­time” web­site at Talko­faLife­time.org. This re­source, cre­ated by the Fu­neral and Me­mo­rial In­for­ma­tion Coun­cil, of­fers a free work­book that lists dozens of ques­tions in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories.

Some of th­ese in­clude: ear­li­est mem­o­ries and child­hood; sig­nif­i­cant peo­ple; proud­est ac­com­plish­ments; and most cher­ished ob­jects. This will help you put to­gether a wide va­ri­ety of mean­ing­ful, open-ended ques­tions.

Old pho­tos of your par­ents, their fam­ily mem­bers and friends are also great to have on hand to jog your par­ents’ mem­ory and stim­u­late con­ver­sa­tions.

Af­ter you se­lect your ques­tions and pho­tos, be sure to share them with your par­ents ahead of time so they can have some time to think about their an­swers. This will make the in­ter­view go much smoother.

In­ter­view tips

Ar­range an in­ter­view time when your par­ents are rested and re­laxed, and choose a quiet, com­fort­able place where you won’t be in­ter­rupted. You may need sev­eral ses­sions to cover ev­ery­thing you want.

When you get started, ask your par­ents to in­tro­duce them­selves and ask a warmup ques­tion like “When and where were you born?” Then ease into your se­lected ques­tions, but use them as a guide, not a script. If your par­ents go off topic, go with it.

You can re­di­rect them to your orig­i­nal ques­tion later. Think of it as a con­ver­sa­tion; there’s no right or wrong thing to talk about, as long as it’s mean­ing­ful to you and your par­ents.

Also, be pre­pared to ask fol­low-up ques­tions or diverge from your ques­tion list if you’re cu­ri­ous about some­thing. If you’d like to hear more, try “And then what hap­pened?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What were you think­ing in that mo­ment?”

And end your in­ter­view with some re­flec­tive ques­tions, such as “What legacy would you like to leave?” or “How do you want to be re­mem­bered?”

Send your se­nior ques­tions to: Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit SavvySe­nior.org.

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