Senior Moment: Who Doesn’t Love a Good Story?
Submitted by Kathy Eberle
The Writing Memories Group meets at the Chelsea Senior Center on the third Wednesday of most months at 1:00 pm, to share moments from their personal histories. The only requirement to join is a love of writing and sharing memories. The current version of the group was organized by Jan Bernath in July of 2022
Cecile Bernath, Jan’s mother, piloted the writing idea in the late 1970s at the Chelsea Senior Center, as a way for older citizens to reflect on their lives. Ms. Bernath originally wrote family stories that were shared within that monthly writing group. At first the stories were shared with participants’ families, then, as others heard about their writings, they shared them with friends. The Chelsea Senior Center began publishing the group’s stories in their mimeographed newsletter, and some pieces were published in the Mature Michiganian, a county-wide magazine. Eventually, The Detroit Free Press and Ideals, a subscription-only magazine, published several of Cecile’s pieces.
After the Covid shutdown, Jan thought there was a need for just such a supportive group. Inspired by her mother’s example, she placed an invitation in the Chelsea Senior Center’s monthly newsletter. A small group of writers arrived on the appointed day, ready to put pen to paper and tell their stories. The group started with 5-6 members and has expanded to an average of 10-12 writers.
Members have many reasons to write, and love to share their life experiences, both good and bad. Most of the stories are one or two pages long. A key motivation for many of them is to build a collection of personal stories to hand down to their children and descendants, so that their lives will be remembered. It helps keep memories alive for posterity!
When an author reads a story to the group, they are not looking for a critique or praise, but for a connection in shared experiences. There is often lively discussion as one person’s writing brings up similar memories from others in the group. At the end of each meeting, 3-4 prompts are chosen to act as inspiration for the next month’s stories. Sometimes the prompts evoke completely different subjects, and writers are free to explore those instead. There are no rules or rigid guidelines.
If you enjoy writing about and sharing your experiences, consider joining the gatherings on the third Wednesday of the month at the Chelsea Senior Center. You will find a friendly, encouraging group interested in what you have to say!
The Senior Moment feature highlights opportunities for older adults through the Chelsea Senior Center and related organizations