Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” Even though people typically think of a ‘legacy’ as an amount of money or property left to someone in a will, or passed down through the generations, your legacy can take many forms and represent your own distinctive personality. Our most genuine and substantial legacies come from living mindful lives where we offer our special gifts out of love and driven by our core values. Giving thought to our legacies obliges us to reflect on the patterns, lessons, and meaning of life. As well, legacy acts as a compass for seniors’ choices about how to best spend their remaining time, energy, and material resources. Creating your legacy helps to support vital aging. You are using your intelligence and creativity to bring something new into the world. Both creativity and learning shore up healthy aging and make you more motivated, focused, accomplished, and satisfied. Seniors can harvest the meaning of their lives by passing on their legacies to family and friends, who will in turn learn of their histories and hear all their stories as a way to understand and honour the past.
As we age, reviewing our past life experiences (accomplishments and struggles) can heighten our level of happiness, psychological well-being, and overall sense of life satisfaction. Leaving a legacy can offer seniors reassurance that once they have passed on, they will still remain in the hearts and memories of others. They will be remembered by the gifts they have left behind. The details of their life story (places they went, things they saw and did) will resonate with significant others.
Here are some ideas to help older adults create their own great legacy:
- Assemble a binder of favourite family recipes
- Put together a collection of best-loved old songs
- Make a family tree
- Fill up a jewellry box for family and friends with pieces that hold sentimental value for you
- Piece together a video montage — sharing advice, hopes, memories, wishes, and playful moments or laughter
- Design a memory box where people can contribute their memories each time they come to visit you
- Create a photo album, collage, or scrapbook — make use of photos, cards, love notes, letters, emails, favourite phrases and jokes to tell your story
- Sew a quilt from your collection of vintage T-shirts and other fabric choices
- Write a heartfelt letter to loved ones
- Compose a poem or song
- Write cards for future celebrations
- Transcribe your memories and words of advice — answer all the questions you can think of
- Create an audio recording — share your stories, family history, memories, and hopes for the future
- Write an Ethical Will — a legacy letter to family and friends that shares your inner wealth (accomplishments, beliefs, life lessons, hopes and desires)
- Establish a community gift — a new tree in the park, a park bench, a scholarship in your family’s name, or other financial legacies, such as animal protection and welfare
- Pass on a skill — talents to be shared can include carpentry, gardening, needlework, and cooking with old family recipes
- Create a mosaic legacy garden — combine art (mosaic tiles, stained glass, stones, and other materials) and memories to create a stunning visual masterpiece that will last through time.
The idea of creating a meaningful legacy will likely attract older adults, drawing them into the process of legacy building and resulting in lives of greater purpose, positive energy, and peace of mind. Is it not worth at least exploring this powerful lens for yourself? Leaving a legacy gives your loved ones a gift to hold on to, something that can comfort and reassure them throughout their lives, knowing that you are always close by.