“LifeChronicles” Chronicles Life
by Frank Talk, column for March 27, 2007
Years ago I made a tape recording of my mother, and it’s proven to be one of the wisest things I’ve done. It’s kept Mom’s memory vivid for me and also helped make Mom “more real” for my daughter who never met her.
But sometimes I wonder If Mom might be more clearly remembered if I’d made a video rather than a sound recording. So I was captivated when I learned about LifeChronicles, because it’s an organization that videotapes interviews with seniors to ensure their remembrance by loved ones.
“Our videos try to capture the essence of a person,” explains LifeChronicles founder and director, Kate Carter. “You see them not as a shell of their former selves, but lively and as they were when they were in control. It’s very affirming and it offers a lot of comfort, reassurance and lifetime memories for families.”
Considering the palpable value of such videos, you might imagine that Ms. Carter is making money hand over fist. But LifeChronicles is a small nonprofit organization that is motivated not by money but by a desire to help the elderly and their loved ones.
“I started LifeChronicles in 1998 as something driven by the heart, not the wallet,” emphasizes Ms. Carter. “We never turn anyone away for a lack of money.” Businesses that provide this service charge many thousands of dollars for such videos, but LifeChronicles only asks for a donation of $500 to $1000 – and even less if the family cannot afford even that small expense.
Moreover, Ms. Carter is motivated by her deep appreciation and love for seniors. “The elderly are not highly regarded and are often cast aside,” she says. “But they have so much wisdom and experience to share. And you might think a person’s last message is depressing, but it’s actually very affirming. In their video messages, people don’t talk about death – they talk about living and what’s important in life.”
Since profit is not the focus, LifeChronicles manages largely through volunteer help – in particular, student volunteers. “We have student interns from just about all the high schools and colleges in Santa Barbara,” says Ms. Carter. “We’ve had about 170 student volunteers since we started and they either get community service hours or class credit for their efforts. It’s worked out well because we’ve produced over 350 videos.”
LifeChronicles prides itself on being flexible to suit individual needs. Videos may be relatively short or run for two or three hours if the senior has a lot to say. On average, the video interviews are 45 minutes long and they generally cover five topics: (a) family history; (b) seniors’ personal feelings about their lives; (c) wisdom they want to pass on to loved ones; (d) recollections of specials moments; or (e) family relationships and things that need to be said.
“I don’t have a lot of structure before we tape an interview,” says Ms. Carter. “I’m pretty flexible; however, this is not when you want to deal with old family grudges. I always try to keep the tone very positive.”
Because financial support is vital for LifeChronicles, a fund-raising fashion show (for men and for women) and buffet dinner is planned for April 19th at the Double Tree Resort. Tickets are $125. “It’s called Closets for a Cause,” says Ms. Carter, “because celebrities generously donate things to us from their closets. It’s a unique event and we hope the community will really turn out to support us.”
LifeChronicles’ brochure says their mission is “to produce video recordings to honor and preserve people’s personal histories and capture their essence for the comfort and guidance of those who succeed them.” If this service sounds interesting to you or if you simply wish to support their upcoming “Closet for a Cause” event, you may contact them in several ways. The web site is www.lifechronicles.org and their e-mail is email@example.com. By phone, please call (805) 966-3411 or toll-free at (866) 998-5433.