Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

Baruch speaking at a MOWSF volunteer training.

Thoughts on Aging: Imaginative Remembering

Posted July 18, 2013

MOWSF Blog | Senior Issues

PhotoCollageI have been thinking about the importance of memory and imagination as we grow old. We spend many decades of our lives being busy in the world: we have to “grow up,” we go to school, we work. Maybe we create a family. We develop friendships and create a life for ourselves in society. And then we reach a point in our old age when many of those aspects of our lives start to lose their importance or relevance. We change. Our priorities change. 

It is the perfect time to start paying more attention to our memories. Not just remembering in the superficial way of recalling facts, but rather an imaginative remembering in which we reflect on our lives in order to come to new understandings of what our lives have been about. Thus we create meaning for ourselves by weaving together a narrative that makes sense to us.

This is not a mere indulgence of an idle old age when there is nothing of importance remaining for us to do. No… this is an essential, generative activity that satisfies a deep need in us as human beings and comforts us in ways we don’t always understand. This activity keeps us connected to the essential reality of ourselves as singular and unique individuals who lived this life in that time and those places. When old age can take so much away from us we can continue to give ourselves, and the other people in our lives, the on-going gift of imaginative remembering which nourishes us as we grow yet older.

“Thoughts on Aging” is a column by Baruch Gould, MOWSF’s Manager of Volunteer Programs, on issues related to seniors and aging.