Friday, December 02, 2016

My name is Katie, and I was born in 1923...

My name is Katie, and I was born in 1923 in Tevel, Hungary. As a little girl, my family lived on a homestead. We had ten acres and it was called “existence” farming, because we could exist on those ten acres. We had two vineyards, all kinds of fruit, berries, vegetables, and an herb garden. Everything was organic. My father was a hunter, farmer, and beekeeper, and we had everything! We didn’t have any money, but we were rich!
When I was three years old, I went to stay with my grandmother while my dad built a new house. I remember vividly that she had a big book with beautiful pictures. I would say, “Grandma, let me see the picture book!” She called her book “The Key to Heaven.” I was so amazed by those pictures that I remember them to this day. I didn’t know it was a German Bible; I found that out later on. This Bible was in her family since before World War I. There were only two Bibles in our town of 500 families because when Hungary was ruled by Dukes, all the Bibles were burned.
When I was 15 years old, my future husband (Paul) went to my father and asked to marry me. My father said he would have to talk to Paul’s parents. The parents all went out to dinner without us, and talked it over, and decided that we should be engaged! We were married in 1940; I was 17 and Paul was 19. In our town, the oldest son always stayed with his family, and so I went to live with Paul and his parents in their family home. We were happily married for two years, and then Hitler came.
In 1942, Hitler came into Hungary, and Paul went into the army. While he was gone, the Russians came through our country. They took all our property away from us. Government officials came and told us that we were being sent to clean up because of the damage done by all the bombing. They took all the young people and put us in stock cars, and the next thing we knew we were in Russia! In Russia, they put us to work in the coal mines, and our families back home didn’t even know if we were dead or alive! I labored in the coal mines for five years until the Russians let us go.
When I got back to Hungary, I had no home any more. Hitler took everything away from my family. My in-laws were in East Germany, and my husband, Paul, was in West Germany. I went to West Germany to find him. When I finally found Paul, he was living in a one-room apartment over a pigsty. West Germany was double hell for me because they treated us so bad. There was no other place to go, though, because there was no work.
My husband had an uncle living in Milwaukee, so in 1952 we decided to come to America. We had two little children by then, and we made it onto the last boat coming over. I got so seasick! When we got here, we both found work in a tannery that we could walk to from our apartment. It stunk so bad, but I worked there for three years, until we could buy a house.
That’s my life. I am 93 now, and I have seen so many miracles. To me, America is the promised land!
Katie L., Wisconsin #lifebiostories #LifeBio #realstoriesofamerica #sharewithus
NOTE: Katie was interviewed by a Personal Biographer at and her story is being published in a Legacy Book for her family and friends.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Storytelling for Health and Wellbeing

Storytelling is powerful and it is natural. Why should it be encouraged?  Because it is also good for people's health and sense of wellbeing.  

Here is how LifeBio sees reminiscence touching ALL dimensions of wellness, and why it cannot be ignored as a tool to use with seniors at home, in senior living, assisted living, nursing homes, or with those who have memory challenges. Besides unlocking a fascinating story, it leads to an amazing opportunity for engagement. 

  • Physical – Activate the hippocampus area of brain where memories are stored. "Autobiography for older adults is like chocolate for the brain," said Dr. Gene Cohen in a conversation with Beth Sanders, Founder of LifeBio
  • Spiritual – Deeply touch people as they share beliefs, values, life lessons, etc. 
  • Occupational – This gives people an important job to do. Creating a LEGACY. 
  • Emotional – Joys and challenges are recorded and shared.  LifeBio has been found to increase happiness and satisfaction with life.  “Get it off your chest.”   
  • Environmental -  Life stories build a strong sense of community. 
  • Intellectual – Life stories help people learn about themselves and about other people.  Fascinating new knowledge and people learn to listen.
  • Social –  People form new bonds with their neighbors and become friends through the power of story.  
    Want to start a storytelling project in your community?  Call LifeBio at 937-303-4576 or email

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Writing a Story Online -- The Life Story Made Easier Than Ever Before

It is amazing when a person's life story can be built online. For many people, it is the only way to go, especially for those that want to avoid like the plague just staring at a blank sheet of paper wondering where to start.  Why not use the power of a website to write your life story online

Instead of asking "What questions do I ask myself?" An online biography system is asking you the most relevant questions about your family history, childhood memories, historical/life events that impacted you, adulthood topics, and beliefs and values.  There is a LOT to cover and whole topics may be missed if you're not careful...leaving unanswered questions for your family someday.

The beauty of an online biography system is that it can provide numerous topics to write about and the online user can "skip around" to the biography topic that is most relevant.  In fact, in a system like LifeBio, it will even instantly build a table of contents as topics are answered and keep everything in a very logical order anytime you want to preview how the finished document is coming together. 

Also, there is ample room to say as much or as little as you want.  This certainly is better than a physical journal with questions that might only provide 1 page or 1/2 a page for answers. 

Writing a life story online is important for both you and your family.  They want to know you (and they don't want regrets because they didn't record your story).  You want to create a lasting legacy--they should know you!  This is your chance to say what matters most to the people you love. 

It's as easy as coming to and signing up for free. Start a BIOGRAPHY and watch an amazing story begin to unfold.  We suggest you upgrade to full membership but start with your free "lite" account and see how it goes.  If you have any questions about writing a story online, please call 937-303-4576 or email  LifeBio -- It's time to tell your story!   -- Beth Sanders, Founder

Friday, November 20, 2015

Reminiscence Therapy: Effective for a Number of Reasons

I remember visiting Judy's back porch in her memories.  She pointed to her father who was sitting to her left and her brother who was drinking lemonade at the table.  In the distance, she smelled and saw the pink rhododendron bushes and she felt the breeze in the air.  Her mother was preparing food in the kitchen and a picnic on the porch was about to begin. It was like we were there, and, for Judy, we were there.  We were visiting this sweet memory together.  I also could feel that Judy didn’t really want to come back right away.  That was okay. She was truly enjoying the moment....and so was I as the listener.  
Using memories and life stories as a therapeutic tool is not a new concept, but new methods are making it far easier for anyone to have the opportunity to not only reminisce but to record the key information. Reminiscence is now being used in senior living and health care settings from coast to coast. It's a growing trend to know more about people in care settings of all types, and knowing a person's story is a very good starting point---plus reminiscence therapy works.  
The sights and sounds of long-ago events and experiences can be revisited when someone is reminiscing.  It is a powerful thing.  I've seen work hundreds of times in over 10 years of life story work -- especially in senior care and health care settings.  
Reminiscing has been found to lower pain, increase happiness and life satisfaction (LifeBio study with Iowa State University, 2014), promote ego integrity (Haight, Michel, & Hendrix, 2000), enhance psychological well-being (Chiang, Lu, Chu, Chang, & Chou, 2008), improve personal meaning (Westerhof, Bohlmeijer, van Beljouw, & Pot, 2010), increase life satisfaction (Bohlmeijer, Roemer, Cuijpers, & Smit, 2007), increase self-esteem (Haight et al., 2000), and improve adaptation (Chiang et al., 2008).
We learned recently that the Veterans Administration uses Narrative Exposure Therapy to treat those facing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This is an interesting use of reminiscence therapy. 
In fact, Mayo Clinic sees an improvement in mood for people with dementia when using LifeBio for social engagement in a National Institute for Health study in progress.
Even people with dementia, do seem to be able to access long term memories.  They may enjoy talking about their grandparents, childhood games, or a vacation 40 or 50 years ago….especially when the “day to day” information about weather, health, sports, or food has little or no relevance as a conversation.  
Reminiscence is a powerful tool for people of all ages, but especially for seniors.  It is also interesting that PURPOSE has been tied to better overall health, and creating a lasting legacy is an incredibly PURPOSEFUL thing for seniors to be doing. 
My feeling is that reminiscence therapy and life story work in general is one of the best ways to deeply connect human beings, and what the world needs now is less loneliness and isolation and more true relationships.  So let’s do encourage personal storytelling....and record the incredible stories along the way.  We might gain some valuable wisdom too!
Beth Sanders

Friday, October 09, 2015

Why to Start a Life Story Program in Senior Living, Hospice, Hospitals, or Health Care

A good life story program helps people ask the right questions to bring out the best stories and to create a strong connection with family and other loved ones.  When people are reaching old age or facing a life-threatening illness, this is the ideal time to be offering a life story program.

Well documented health and wellness benefits of reminiscence are another great reason to be certain you have an effective life story program as it positively impacts quality of life, quality of care, and patient satisfaction.

Increases in happiness and satisfaction with life, lowering depression, and even lowering physical pain are all reasons to be reminiscing and reviewing one's life with intension.  And with Alzheimer's Disease and other related dementias stealing people's long-term memories, it becomes both urgent and important to document the life story without delay.

As LifeBio works with over 100 organizations to roll out simple but powerful life story programs, we have learned what support is needed to be successful. Here are a few tips from our experience:

1) It's important to have the support of the executive team in the organization. This can't be just one person's job to build a life story program. It's not a "nice" to do; it's a "need" to do. It must be backed by leaders who see that it is integral to the services offered---especially if this is an organization focused on individualized care or patient-centered care.

2) Who can help with the life story? It is key to ensure that staff, family, and volunteers (love it when high school or college students are involved like in the picture above) are encouraged to work 1 on 1 or in small groups with individuals to make the life stories happen.  With the right questions in booklet form or online, it can happen.  It doesn't have to take a lot of time (even 30 minutes of asking the right questions can result in something beautiful).  The point here is to unlock the stories of the people in your care beyond their clinical needs and see them holistically -- while giving them the opportunity to be deeply known and to create a legacy.

3) Making it beautiful and error free is really important.  One of the KEY things that LifeBio focuses on (and software makes possible), for example, is striving for perfection with our clients.  How can we make the life story of a person in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice look as great as possible?  After all, this is his or her LIFE STORY--not something to be taken lightly. So we have a whole "Story Team" of writers, editors, and fact checkers whose job is to help make the online story, the Life Story Booklets, and the Life Story Summaries as perfect as possible.  We ask ourselves, "How do I honor this person's story and make it incredible for the person, staff, and loved one's to read and enjoy now and in the future?"

A life story program requires a team effort.  It can't happen with just one person working alone.  It is intense, life changing, and essential for the future of health care.
Beth Sanders, 937-303-4576,

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Teen/Kids version of LifeBio makes its debut

We realize that children may also want to tell their life stories, and their parents find their responses fascinating.  That's why now has a Kids/Teen template inside.  The questions were developed by asking our own children what they would like to talk about -- school, friends, sports, favorite costumes, and just life in general.  

LifeBio immediately builds a ready-to-print book of the children's life story so far.  There is, of course, ample opportunities to keep coming back and adding more and more and more through the years. It's interesting to think about kids answering the questions at various points in their childhood.  How different a child's answer would be from what that same person would say as a teenager!   Even their favorite food and color would have probably changed! 

Love the interaction that this causes with family.  For example, we think it is great to have kids asking where they used to live when they were little or asking the names of distant family members to add to that part of their family's story.   We would recommend this for homeschooling parents and for schools who would like students to have a great reason to be online doing something meaningful -- in a safe and secure environment. 

For more information on the Kids/Teen story, go to or call 1-866-LIFEBIO or call 937-303-4576.  Licensing is available for group or children's hospitals or organization usage. 

The Springs at Monarch Landing offers program to keep residents’ memories alive

Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate. --J.R.R. Tolkien

Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate. --J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, July 10, 2015

LifeBio helps those with terminal illnesses to write a letter to future generations

LifeBio's new "Letter to My Children and Loved Ones" template provides a simple approach to empower mothers and fathers to share their memories, wishes, and advice with present and future generations.

Screenshot of Letter to My Children and Loved Ones

PRLog - July 10, 2015 - COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fond memories of time spent together often sustains us after the loss of a loved one, but families are concerned that remembrances will fade. For a person facing death (especially mothers or fathers with small children or teenagers), writing a heartfelt letter that documents key information is the most precious and lasting gift that can be given.

For some, writing comes naturally and for others it can be a challenge especially when facing cancer, kidney failure, heart issues, or other life-threatening illnesses.

"We know that people of all ages struggle with what to say to their children as they reach the end of their lives. Families have urged us to create this new 'Letter to My Children and Loved Ones' template because people need a simple way to say what matters most--before it's too late. It's tough to just look at a blank sheet of paper and wonder what to write," said Beth Sanders, LifeBio's founder.

LifeBio's newest template provides thought-provoking prompts. LifeBio also offers suggestions on how to begin answering the question. Once finished, the letter is generated and ready to print and share. The letter may be read immediately or at a later time. Some points could be appropriate to share at a child's graduation, before a wedding day, at the birth of a child, or upon another occasion.

Here are some sample sentence starters:

Treasure each day you have because it will teach you... (how precious life really is, courage and strength, etc.)...

You may have tough times along the way, but I want to encourage you to... (never give up, go after your dreams, keep your family as a priority, etc.)...

On these special occasions, I have a few things to share... (on a birthday, on a graduation day, on a wedding day, on the day a child is born, etc.)...

"The idea of writing an ethical will has been around for thousands of years, we have just brought this idea into the 21st Century with easy-to-use, secure technology. The 'Letter to My Children or Loved Ones' template inside the "Stories" area of offers a do-able way to preserve some of the most important memories, advice, and hopes for future generations," said Sanders.
LifeBio is the first website to provide an online autobiography/biography system. LifeBio works with individuals, senior care, health care, hospice, financial planners, and estate attorneys.  Call 1-866-LIFEBIO (1-866-543-3246) or email for more details. Visit to signup for a free trial (upgrades to full features are available starting at $7.99/month).
#ethicalwill   #family   #health   #ancestry  #seniorcitizens  #hospice  #aarp   #patientcentered  #personcentered   #dying   #death 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Loneliness is associated with higher health care utilization among older adults

Mar 2015 - A new study. published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds that loneliness is associated with higher health care utilization (more doctor visits).  We find this of great importance at because we are building interventions to connect seniors to other seniors using reminiscence therapy to build positive, lasting relationships to increase social connectedness in health care, senior care, and home settings.
Details of the study....
Objectives. We aimed to determine whether loneliness is associated with higher health care utilization among older adults in the United States.

Methods. We used panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (2008 and 2012) to examine the long-term impact of loneliness on health care use. The sample was limited to community-dwelling persons in the United States aged 60 years and older. We used negative binomial regression models to determine the impact of loneliness on physician visits and hospitalizations.

Results. Under 2 definitions of loneliness, we found that a sizable proportion of those aged 60 years and older in the United States reported loneliness. Regression results showed that chronic loneliness (those lonely both in 2008 and 4 years later) was significantly and positively associated with physician visits (β = 0.075, SE = 0.034). Loneliness was not significantly associated with hospitalizations.

Conclusions. Loneliness is a significant public health concern among elders. In addition to easing a potential source of suffering, the identification and targeting of interventions for lonely elders may significantly decrease physician visits and health care costs. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 19, 2015: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302427)

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