BBC News


Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Recording memories

Senator Joe Biden and his grandchildren

60 seconds to change the world

Can a simple idea help make the world a better place? Each week we ask a guest to outline an idea to improve all our lives. Here, philosopher Angie Hobbs argues that every schoolchild should record the memories of an older person.

My proposal is that all schoolchildren should record the memories of at least one person aged 60 or over to build up a collective memory bank.

This project would be compulsory for the young but only optional for the over-60s.

I think there would be many benefits from doing this.

We would gain unique insights into social history and benefit from the experience and wisdom of older generations.


The elderly would feel useful, wanted and valued.

Stronger bonds would be formed between the young and old, leading to less abuse and neglect of the elderly, and perhaps less neglect of children too.

Finally, the older peoples' past could become part of the present and future of the young, leading to a sense of continuity and a bit of stability in a chaotic and frightening world.

I think collective memory banks should get the memories before we lose them.

Angie Hobbs is a philosopher at Warwick University, specialising in ancient Greek philosophy and in ethics.

Below is a selection of your comments.

Just as a person's memories create one's personality, a nation's memories create its collective personality too.
Jermaine Hargrave, Croydon

As part of a school project, my sister chose to interview our gran and created a booklet with lots of anecdotes and photos from throughout her life. I remember that she found out stories none of us had heard before. I hope it's something my sister and I will be able to share with our children. Gran passed away at 96 this week and this booklet will hopefully be on display at the memorial service for her.
Shona Logie, Glasgow

I work in a secondary school and children have so little idea of what life was like 50 years ago. They believe older people have nothing to offer them by way of learning new things about the world we live in, but society is cyclical and we can all learn a lot from the ramblings of an old person.
Leona, Bristol

Just remember that age alone does not confer wisdom.
Megan, Cheshire UK

Compulsory sounds a little strong to me and if optional for the over 60s, is doomed to fail by default. It's better perhaps, to encourage each child to maintain a journal throughout their lives, coupled with the older generations thoughts. The written word has been replaced by the digital world of the cell phone with pictures and text which fall short in recording a family's social history.
Brianonthecam, Cambridge UK

Somewhere in between childhood and 60, I remember dearly and vividly when my granny told me of her life during our walks to the playground. And I am convinced that she formed much of the way I am looking at life today.
George, Vienna, Austria

As a 62 year old I have learned one lesson, the young don't think the old understand or know anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, it's only later in their life through experience that they discover how wrong they were.
Terry Byatt, Sleaford, UK

I am 14, and I believe that although Angie Hobbs has good ideas, they are not practical because there are many questions. If you get people like myself, who are interested in this, then fine I would like to do it, but how many elderly would sign up? Many wouldn't do it if it was compulsory.
Hannah, Somewhere South

It's an excellent idea I've heard mentioned before, the only problem is where is this collective memory bank held, how is it funded and controlled to ensure only memories are added?
Charles Brown, Aberdeen, Scotland

All people over 80 should have a computer at home like me so they could leave a diary on it for future generations.
Marion Monahan, Bristol

As someone of 65 who is still trying to piece together my own mother's life from remembered conversations from when she was alive, I think this is an excellent suggestion. Once the elderly relative's memory is failing, or when they have died it is too late. How many people must regret not having listened to grandparents stories about their family's past.
K Taylor, Cardiff, UK

My son did an interview of my father (his grandfather) for a project about WWII. We BOTH learned a lot about him through this. Little did we know my dad would pass away shortly after. This project gave a chance for a grandson to have contact with his grandfather overseas and learn more of his own background. It also left us with a lasting memory.
Jo Kimmel, Greensboro, NC


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific