“The wandering bands of storytelling Sapiens were the most important and most destructive force the animal kingdom had ever produced.” -Yuval Noah Harari.

Making a story for seniors is fun that brings people together and celebrates their lives. Hearing stories told by our parents and grandparents is just like collecting pearls: once you string them together, more surprises unfold. Then, you probably won’t wait to pass the delight to others, which is the beauty of storytelling.

What are senior stories, and why should we make one?

As the name suggests, senior stories could be a description of any major change or experience that a senior had in the past or something that encapsulates these experiences and summarizes their life into one story. It preserves memories and helps to define their personality. Here, we talk about a life story consisting of a set of events in a senior’s life. 

There are many benefits of senior storytelling:

Promote understanding and empathy

Successful storytelling can elicit emotional responses from the audience and create empathy. One example is an Alzheimer’s disease awareness film called “Takeaway,” which was aired on TV.

The scene begins with an older adult looking at the door, waiting for his son to come home. However, when his son comes back, the older adult doesn’t seem to want to open the door.

“Dad, open the door for me! I didn’t bring the key!” the young man knocks on the door and says.

The older adult suddenly panics.

  “I don’t know you!” He yells at the young man with fear, leaving his son completely shocked.

Then it follows with the narrative from the son.

The son says since his father’s memory began to worsen: “He always forgets where the fridge or the bathroom is. He doesn’t recognize his own house when he’s just in front of it. Sometimes he even doesn’t remember if he has had meals.”

The son takes his father out for lunch with his friends one day. When they were almost finished eating, the father saw two dumplings left on the plate. Then the older adult makes quickly grabs the dumplings with his hand and tucks them into his pockets, disregarding the other guests at the table.

“What are you doing, dad?!” the son, feeling embarrassed, grumbled to his father.

“These are for my son,” the father replies.

“I know he loves dumplings.”

The son is stunned by the father’s answer. Just as the name implies, the disease takes away most of the father’s memories and consciousness, but it doesn’t take away his love for his son.

This PSA was unquestionably a success. It won the “Film Lion” prize in the 60th Cannes Festival of Creativity and allowed many people to learn about Alzheimer’s for the first time.

Like the ads, a vivid story can touch the heart of the audience, making them understand and feel the hero or heroine in the story. So maybe next time, if you want your friends to understand why your loved one loves to collect “invaluable items” such as plastic bags or napkins, tell them the story of how they have been through a difficult time with material scarcity and believes collecting things will be useful in the future. This way, they will understand it and thus avoid some embarrassment of “missing toilet paper” in the washroom.

Help caregivers to deliver better care

Relationships are built upon “knowing” – without sufficiently knowing the person’s identity. It’s hard to have a connection with them. Another point of telling the story of our loved ones is to let the caregivers provide more effective assistance to the one you care for.

Here’s a real-life example that illustrates the idea:

A while ago, an older woman with cognitive impairment, living in a long-term care home, often got up in the middle of the night and walked down the hallways to check on sleeping residents. It was quite disturbing and creepy to both the residents and the staff, and it was hard to resolve since her behaviour seemed “unstoppable” to some degree.

But nothing is impossible to a willing heart. After countless times of trying to stop the behaviour, a caregiver decided to figure out the underlying reason. Starting from learning about her past experiences, the caregiver discovered that the woman was a night-shift nurse for over 30 years! It turned out that she was trying to “do her job”!

After that, everything has solved. Whenever the woman happened to repeat her nurse-on-duty behaviour again, the staff would tell her that her shift had ended and therefore could go back to sleep with relief.

What an amazing story! If the caregiver didn’t look into her past, they wouldn’t know how to help her to rest. Now you can use CareStory to store all your loved one’s experiences and access through a QR code. Quality care can happen in just one scan!

Strengthen family bonds

Although you and your parents and grandparents have lived together for years, it doesn’t mean you know them very well. When you hear stories about them from further back, you are drawn to your family even closer.

You may be surprised when you find out your strong grandfather also has a weak side inside of him, and your seemingly ordinary mother has done something spectacular in the past. Strong emotions are created when we share these experiences and memories as we feel we are more pulled towards them, which is how relationships are strengthened.

Promote well-being

While happy memories evoke warm feelings, which is good for mental health, sharing stories of enduring horrible crises or tragedies can also be beneficial.

These can reveal how the family member dealt with it and overcame the difficult time when handled correctly. These stories can be precious life lessons that teach you how to be strong throughout life. In addition, telling these stories also helps the senior to release stress when you are “experiencing” these memories together with them (research from Advances in Psychiatric Treatment). Re-experiencing these memories encourage the whole family to face the uncertainty of the future, which can further build resilience and confidence in both seniors and their families.

Not only does storytelling have a beneficial psychological influence, but it also has a positive physiological impact. According to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2021, they have discovered that storytelling boosts oxytocin levels while lowering cortisol levels (a hormone generated in reaction to stress). Oxytocin is a hormone associated with human bonding and enhances feelings of love and empathy.

Although stories capture feelings and tighten bonds, techniques are still needed when gathering them and putting them into words. Here are some tips for creating and adding dimensions to your senior stories.

Tips of effective family storytelling:

1. Choose a central idea

A great story usually embodies a central message, even a life story. When crafting a senior story, you should have a clear idea of what you’re building toward. Consider who your audience would be. Are they the caregivers or your family friends? What is your purpose for creating this senior story? What tone do you use to interpret the person’s life events accurately? Think about these questions before choosing the type of stories to tell. Be clear on the “core” that you base your narrative on, and always stick to it.

2. Make a timeline for their major events

Ask the seniors about important moments they remember. You can write them down or record them through audio. After collecting these stories, highlight the ones that seem worthy to include and align with the story’s central idea. This process may take a lot of time and effort, but it is fundamental to building a coherent story. See our blog on “How to communicate with seniors” to make the process easier.

3. Be specific on what shapes your loved one’s identity

If your loved one is a fun person, focus on the funny moments that happened in their life; if the senior is a loving person, you can put more attention on describing the heartwarming senior stories that you could remember about them. It is okay to add some conflict to the story, but building a consistent identity is vital for the audience to empathize with the senior.

4. Gather memories from other family members

There are always some details we miss from the first-person perspective. Try to ask other family members about the important memories that they share with the seniors and get them involved in the process. It will add more “flesh” to the structure of your story.

5. Explore old photos and gadgets

Some seniors love to collect things such as photos or ornaments. They believe these little things hold their memories and have sentimental attachments to them. Try asking the senior the story behind these “collections.” It helps them bring back more memories and feel more engaged in the storytelling process.

Collecting stories can be the most taxing and rewarding process of generating senior stories. Here, CareStory has provided you with some sample questions you can ask your loved one to sparkle a story. 

List of questions to ask a senior to inspire a story:


  • What was the occupation of your parents?

  • What’s one lesson your parents taught you?

  • What’re one or two stories that you remember the most clearly about your childhood?

  • What was your favourite time of day when you were a kid? Why?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?


  • Describe your most important friendship.

  • What was your first job? How did you get it?

  • Do you have a significant other? How did you meet them?

  • What do you recall about your first date with your significant other?

  • What’s your greatest accomplishment in your life?

  • What were the most fulfilling times of your life?

  • Were there any difficult times you’d like to share? 

  • Where there any moments you recall as a turning point of your life?

  • What are you most grateful for in your life?

  • What’s the most significant thing you’ve done to help others?


  • What’s your favourite holiday memory?

  • What’s your favourite city/country? Why?

  • What’s your favourite food? 

  • What is the most amazing piece of technology to you?

  • What have you been doing for fun lately?


  • If you could have one superpower, what do you wish it would be? Why?

  • What’s on your bucket list?

  • What are your goals for the next few years?

  • If you could have dinner with one person from past or present, who would it be? Why?

  • What would you say if you could talk to yourself 20/30/40 years ago?

  • If you could go back in time, what time would it be? Why?

At the end

Creating senior stories is not an easy process, yet it has many benefits to it. For the seniors who cannot create their own stories, the help from their families can bridge the gaps and encourage them to share these treasures. Many tools can help you build and share your stories, and CareStory is one of them. We are committed to letting every elder be heard. Feel free to check it out. 



“Asshole!”—If Violet Hughes calls you this, she likes you. 100%.

Vi was known for three things—loving her family, chewing gum, and being the life of the party. Vi loved to dance with her stiletto heels and red lipstick. In her younger years, you could find her at a local dance every Saturday night. In fact, this is where she met her husband, Doug. Truth is, she was dating someone else. But Doug apparently swept her off her stilettoed feet, and they were inseparable ever since.

From 1947 to 1949, Vi was the mascot for The Arcade Ladies softball team, winning the Maritime championship in 1947 and 1948. In four years, they won 90 out of 98 games, with a winning streak of 60 games in a row. This is still believed to be unsurpassed in Canadian softball, which landed them in the Nova Scotia Hall of Fame in 1999.

Vi was a stay-at-home mom to her five children until her youngest went to school. In 1971, she left Nova Scotia and uprooted her family to Toronto. She worked as a secretary for De Havilland Aircraft by day, and a supermom by night, driving her kids to and from activities and sporting events. She missed a lot of games because as she always said,

“By the time I dropped the last one off, the first one was ready to be picked up again.”

Vi returned to the Maritimes in 1975, where she worked for the Department of National Defense until she retired in 1992. In their first year back, they decided to build her dream home as a family, next to a quiet little lake in Lower Sackville. Working full-time during the day and until midnight, Vi and Doug, with their kids, finished the home in 1976.

Violet spends her remaining years watching the sunrise and feeding the ducks. She also waits for Doug to put in a pool because she is afraid of the lake critters nibbling on her toes.

Leaving you with her final sentiment: “Thanks for reading, assholes!”


“Never pick a fight with the ocean. The ocean will always win.” 

Doug Hughes loved to cook; his dream was to be a chef in the Navy. When he turned 18, young Doug waited in line for what seemed like hours to apply to be a chef at the Navy Recruit Centre. But when he got to the front, he realized it was a line for deep-sea divers. Doug looked to his right and saw the line for chefs. It was even longer. So—this is the story of Doug Hughes, a deep-sea diver for over 35 years. 

In 1971, Doug left Nova Scotia and moved to Toronto, starting work with the Toronto Bomb Squad Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and becoming a member of the Experimental Diving Unit. This is where he developed and worked with the hyperbaric chamber to provide treatments for gangrene and diving ailments such as decompression sickness, or in other words, the bends. Yes, he was, for lack of a better word, a guinea pig who voluntarily got the bends hundreds of times to ensure that the hyperbaric chamber provided adequate oxygen therapy treatment. 

As the years went on, Doug felt that although he was friends with the sea, he wanted to be acquainted with the sky, too. He went in for a physical, one of the requirements before becoming a pilot, and they found a large tumor behind his heart. If it wasn’t for his physical, he would have been dead in six months. After open-heart surgery and three months of recovery, Doug was back at sea with a clean bill of health. 

Back at sea

He returned to the Maritimes in 1975, and was coxswain of the HMCS Cormorant from 1981-1986. One day, while the McKay Bridge was being built, Doug and several other divers were using a large vacuum to remove boulders from the ocean floor. Tragically, before his own eyes, one of his friends got caught in the current and was killed after the strength of the vacuum disfigured and dismantled his body. From then, also battling extensive arthritis, he became chief instructor at the Fleet Diving Unit training school and remained in the FDU(A) until his retirement. 

Doug spent his remaining years with his wife Vi on a lake in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia where they raised their five children. Water, as he said, a friend and foe, surrounded him always. 

Leaving you with his favorite saying;

“See you on the bottom!”

Happy Monday! It’s Senior Story time again!

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, if you were inside, Mary Shute told you to “get out”. I don’t blame her—she had 11 children.

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mary was the glue that held her entire family together, catering to her husband, Ralph, first. She made sure that he came home to fresh, hot food and busy kids, after a long day’s work.

Had a sweet tooth? No problem. You’ll get your fix anywhere in the house, with numerous selections of Robertson’s Candy, popular in the Maritimes around Christmas, such as chicken bones, ribbon candy, and clear-toy suckers, displayed beautifully in crystal bowls.

Every year on Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, Mary would fry you up some delicious pancakes stuffed with coins (wrapped in wax paper) to sponsor your trip to the local convenience store in search of penny candy.

At Christmas, she would stuff her husband’s woolen socks with fruit, nuts, and candy for each child’s stocking, and hand you the Sears catalog to choose one, yes one, toy.

Mary was kind, and giving (what she was able to give) and was very much stubborn… in all the best ways. One year, her son and daughter-in-law gave her a scratch ticket inside her birthday card, and she won $500. She thought it was only fair to split the winnings with them, as they were the ones who purchased the ticket for her.

Mary was dependable, protective, and family-oriented: a woman who got things done.

She spent a number of years after Ralph’s retirement at their lakeside cottage, before her battle with Alzheimer’s. Rumor has it, she’s currently telling other seniors at the nursing home to go out and play.


You knew where you stood with Ralph Shute because he would either meet you with a smile or call you a moron.

Above all else, he was a kind man with a purpose. Those who have met him, remember not only his generosity, but also moments that make you chuckle and shake your head. 

If you couldn’t find him, he was probably at work. And rightfully so, as he had 11 children. With five girls and six boys, the man had many to provide for. 

So where can you find Ralph?

Ralph would be gone before the kids woke up and home after bedtime—six days a week. He was a hardworking man who took pride in his work, working as a longshoreman for 45 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was dedicated to his family, and his wife, Mary, who held it down at home.

On his day off, you would often find him working on the house, asking for “help”, although most times, he would end up just doing it himself. You would somehow find yourself holding a board steady for him, helpless, only for him to come and push you out of the way. He was a perfectionist and would marvel at the imperfections of his construction. “Hey! Come look at this—look at how f***ing crooked that is!”

Every summer, he would often take his family to the cottage and stay there for a month or so, commuting two hours to work each way. He loved taking the kids water-skiing, boating, and apple picking, despite catching the odd rotten apple in the thigh after getting caught in the crossfire of a rotten apple fight. 

He spends his remaining years at the cottage, lakeside, with his wife Mary, tinkering around the cottage. 

A man with a quiet interior and a depth that he kept to himself, Ralph Shute was no moron.


Today, CareStory would like to take you into the senior story world and tell you the story of John Drake.

In Portland, Jamaica, you might know John Drake. So who is John Drake? John is a very well-respected businessman and visionary. In fact, he built the Drake legacy from the ground up.

Community Contributor

Passionate for law and politics, John had a lot to say. Because of these passions, John is deeply involved in his community, and he is also an active member of the church.

Moreover, John was very popular and a busy man, working, inspiring the community, and hosting social events. He spent time as a Justice of the Peace and enjoyed being a member of the Freemason Lodge.

Besides these activities, John also had a large appetite for life. He loved going to the horse races at Caymanas and watching cricket matches at Sabina Park.

Successful Investor and Provider

Everybody knew John as a hardworking man and a great provider. He invested in businesses and real estate and his driving force was to support his family.

John owned a number of businesses, such as a hardware store, bar, restaurant, etc. The 52-acre farm is his prized investment. There, you would see cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese, along with gardens, an abundance of fruit trees, and a farmhouse filled with love.

Inside, he raised five children with his wife Cynthia, who he loved and respected dearly. John met Cynthia in church, and married her in 1953 with just a single gold band. They made commitments to each other, and they were partners in every sense of the word.

John was known for his kindness and giving nature, along with his firm hand. Johnny Walker was his signature drink, and he could make a mean Rum Punch.

John spends his remaining years in Portland with his wife Cynthia. Currently, he is still active in the community and taking care of others. If you’re from Portland, you know the name Drake. And if you know the name Drake, you know a good man.

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    Visit us anytime

    294 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada

    Send us an email


    Sign up for Medicare newsletter to receive all the news offers and discounts.

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      Copyright by Emersewell Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.

      Copyright by Emersewell Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.