Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How Can We Honor the Wisdom of Older Loved Ones?

September 18, 2023

How Can We Honor the Wisdom of Older Loved Ones?

I’ve been recording my dad’s wisdom into videos. 

He’s had some unique experiences for a man his age. He lost my sister when she was only 32. His wife (my mom) died of cancer after being diagnosed at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Usually, it’s the husband who leaves a widow behind, not the other way around. I wanted to know how he felt about hard trials like that, especially when James 1:2 says we should “count it all joy.”  

So I asked him: What do you do when you lose someone you’re so close to? Especially someone in your family? How do you reconcile that with your faith?

My dad has been a Christian and a pastor for a long time. Yet, he answered in a way that would encourage even a non-believer. 

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to share the knowledge and experience that my dad has. I think men his age would benefit from hearing his perspective. They’ve told me how they respect his strength. 

Sharing my dad’s story could help them — and many others, too. 

The value of recorded wisdom

Years ago, I met a woman who had organized a volunteer opportunity for teenagers to give back to the community. She would take them to senior centers to interview the residents, encouraging deep conversations.

They asked questions like:

  • What did you do for a living?
  • How did you learn the skills you needed to succeed at your job?
  • What was your most interesting work experience?
  • What was your childhood like?
  • How do you think your childhood was different from mine?
  • What was the hardest lesson for you to learn as a young adult?
  • What advice would you give your younger self, if you had the chance?

What the teenagers gleaned from that experience was, “Wow, these people are really knowledgeable. They have a lot of trade secrets and wisdom to share.” 

I saw another organization that approached people who were potentially in their last days of life. They asked them if they would like to leave a final video for their kids or grandkids. Then they helped them capture their thoughts. 

My thought to that idea was: Why wait so long? I feel like there are so many people out there who have an interesting story to tell. 

How can we capture and retell those stories? 

A love story for the ages

Lately, capturing my family history has been a theme on my mind. A couple of blogs back, I wrote about the conversations I had with my grandma while she was visiting us in Florida. 

My 92-year-old grandma is an amazing cook. Everyone likes how she makes certain things, but in order for her to make those things exactly, she needs the right equipment. 

We spent a lot of time driving to different mom-and-pop shops, looking for the right tools and ingredients to make arepas, natilla, chocolate from scratch, and coffee the way she likes it. 

She’s living in this modern world of technology. But there we were, looking for older-style cooking tools. 

Afterwards, I took her out to lunch and asked her: How did you meet Grandpa?

At the time, they were both thought to be sympathizers of an unpopular government, and the populist movement ran them out of their homes. They ended up in a house outside of Medellín, Colombia — the very home where my grandmother still lives. 

In classic Romeo and Juliette fashion, my grandma was standing on a balcony when my grandfather first saw her. She winked at him, which was a bold move for her time. She practically declared them in a committed relationship. 

Capture your family stories now, before it’s too late

Even my dad has stories I haven’t heard yet. Recently, he told me that when he and my mom first got married, they took a sewing job to make ends meet. They had to sew a certain amount of fabric per day to get paid. They would deliver the sewn pieces back to a man, who made them into clothes. 

I didn’t even know my dad knew how to sew. That made me wonder what other fascinating stories I don’t know about. 

Once the generation living in their 70s, 80s, and 90s is gone, their stories will be gone too. 

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to ask someone you admire to tell you a story you’ve never heard. Use the questions I listed above or from this blog. Record them or write down their answers.

What are the best stories from your family history? I’d love for you to share them!

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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