Seniors Work to Record Memories for Posterity

A group of older citizens from a local church here gets together every week to talk, but they aren't just idle retirees: They're busy remembering their lives.

"I was a cab driver in Los Angeles for 40 years," one began. "And this is one of my stories. …"

The memoir group, from the Unitarian Universalist Church, published a book of their stories. Like older people all over the country, they're putting memories on paper before they are lost.

"I'm writing mine for my children and my grandchildren," one member said. "I'd like to let them know how I felt going through life."


Writing senior memoirs has become an industry. Most are written by professionals.

At a trade show in Baltimore, the ghostwriters who call themselves personal historians showcase their services for people who need help writing. In 10 years, the group has grown from 15 members to 400.

"Its stories are like a road map for future generations," said Lettice Stuart, whose company is Portraits in Words. "Successes, trials and tribulations: It's a wonderful way for future generations to see how they should be living."

In Los Angeles, Edith Meyer, a survivor of the Holocaust, got help from a professional producer to make a video of her life.

The professionals say there's always a story to be told.

"Anybody that you meet at the lunch counter, or in the park, or on the street," said Ellie Kahn of Living Legacies, "everybody has a story."

First Affair

In Ventura, the church group is working on new stories.

"I feel comfortable to read anything," one group member said. "I mean, I read you all about my first affair. I haven't even told my children about that."

She has now.

ABC News' Brian Rooney originally reported this story for "World News Tonight" on Aug. 20, 2005.