We all want to leave something of us behind when our time comes. Leaving a legacy can make our older years more satisfying and assure us that we will not be forgotten. It can make the process of aging a bit easier and a lot more meaningful. There are many ways to leave a legacy that will last for years to come.
Tips for Leaving a Legacy
Donate to a special cause. Of course, most seniors will have loved ones that they wish to make a bequest to. But they may also want to set funds aside for a cause that is near and dear to their heart. A few ideas:
- A favorite charitable organization
- A local animal shelter
- The local hospital, library, or homeless shelter
- The college or high school they attended
- Research organizations – especially those that work with a condition the senior has personal experience with, such as lung cancer or diabetes research
- A local club that is meaningful, such as a bird club or senior group
- A grandchild’s education
But what if your loved one doesn’t have much money and still wants to leave something behind that is uniquely them? There are many ways to leave a legacy that require little or no funds. A few ideas:
Video interviews – You can ask about Dad’s experience in the Navy or Mom’s experience as a preschool teacher. Just get them talking. Ask Dad what it was like growing up with ten brothers and sisters or about that time he went on an African safari. You’ll probably hear stories you’ve never heard before! Don’t forget to share the videos with him afterwards and make copies for other family members.
Write letters – Letters let our loved ones who have passed speak to us again. Mom could write letters to each of her grandchildren, sharing life tips and a few precious memories. These will be a priceless comfort after she has passed and will be read again and again over the years. If writing is difficult for your loved one, take dictation for them.
Collect and organize documents and photos. After a loved one passes, we are often left with piles of old photos and papers no one knows how to handle. Take steps to avoid that now. Help Mom organize her photos into albums roughly sorted by date. Don’t worry too much about getting things perfect, just get them in some sort of order. Make sure to ask about anyone in the photos you don’t know, and add their name to the back of the photo. For personal documents, help her sort out what she’d like to stay in the family and what she’d like to destroy. Not everyone wants their old love letters read after they are gone! Organize things she would like to keep in clearly labeled storage bins, perhaps with a note about who should receive them.
Donate a car or furniture. If Mom is moving into an assisted living community, she may not need all of her wonderful antique furniture. Parting with it may be difficult, but there are many local charitable organizations that would benefit from the donation. If that feels too anonymous, encourage her to ask family members if there is anything they would like to keep. Knowing that an old dresser will grace the nursery of a new family member can be a comfort. Dad can even donate his car when he decides to stop driving, perhaps to a service that provides transportation to seniors or to Meals on Wheels.
Update the family tree. Far too often, when someone passes away, his or her knowledge of family history passes along with them. Ask your loved one as many questions as you can think of. Just how many sisters did Great-Aunt Clara have? What were their names? What part of England did Grandad come over from? Where is Uncle Victor’s gravestone located? Ask anything and everything you can think of and write it all down. You’ll be glad to have the information in the future.
Plant a garden – Trees, bulbs, and perennials can bloom for years and provide a wonderful sense of comfort with the passing seasons. Mom could help each child plant a tulip bed or gift a grandchild with a tree on their first birthday. She could also donate time or funds to a community garden or public park.
Pass on skills – Don’t let your parent’s special talents slip into oblivion. Let Mom teach you how to play poker or how to make her special rhubarb jam. As you use her techniques for years to come, part of her will be right there with you. If Dad has a special hobby, see if any of his grandchildren would be interested in learning it. Perhaps Dad could teach a granddaughter to play chess or whittle, for example.
Encourage your loved one to plan a legacy that is uniquely them. It will be a comfort and inspiration for them and all who are close to them.