Tips for Seniors on Writing an Autobiography

Many seniors find great value in writing their autobiography. Over time, older adults have acquired a lifetime of memories. Writing about  personal memories and historical events of your life helps to organize your personal story. In fact, a written autobiography will provide more structure to your life story compared to simply reminiscing or telling stories.

In addition, writing an autobiography can give you a better perspective on your memories. You may also discover some new facts about a memory. Furthermore, preliminary research indicates that expressing thoughts in writing can help reduce symptoms of certain diseases and provide a therapeutic effect for anxiety and depression.

Finally, for many seniors, the main goal in writing an autobiography is to pass on their life story (along with family history and anecdotes) to future generations. This not only provides valuable and interesting information but also helps your children and grandchildren know what kind of life you lived and who you were as an individual throughout your life.


How to Start


Have a plan. Decide how you want to write your story. Pen and paper? Typewriter or computer? Audio or video recording? If you need help ask a family member or friend to assist you.

Access your memories. Look through photo albums, read old letters, or call friends and family members from your past to help jog your memory about what life was like for you during a certain time period, particular events, or your everyday routine.

Create a framework. Your life story does not need to start on the day you were born or be written in chronological order. Structure your autobiography by writing an outline first. Under each heading of your outline write about your memories of the topic. Include as much detail as possible along with personal reflections, relationships, family dynamics, financial situation, and even political climate of the country at the time. Some heading examples might include: How I Came to Love Animals;  Living Abroad; Happiest Childhood Memories; School Years; Married Life; Raising a Family; Career Highs and Lows; The 3 Most Influential People in my Life; or My Relationship with my Dad/Mom.

Ask yourself questions. Instead of an outline structure, it may be more helpful to answer questions or prompts as a framework for writing an autobiography. Questions may include: What do I remember about my first childhood home? How did my parents provide discipline? What did my family do for fun? Would I do anything differently if I had the same opportunities available today? Who was the president I most admired?

Get outside help.  Writing is a solitary activity and it is helpful to seek outside support: Join a local writers group where you will receive feedback, and constructive ideas on your story; buy a book on how to write a memoir for nonprofessionals; take an online course through Guided Autobiography (GAB). Based in Southern California, GAB is an organization which helps people organize their life stories in a written format.



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