There’s been considerable research on the importance of reminiscence, life review. Most old people would like to be able to see their lives as a meaningful whole, to be able to sum it up into a coherent narrative.
I don’t want to wax too poetic, but I have really been struck by something which the famous psychologist Erik Erikson said. At some point you realize that you’re given this one chance — he words it this way — ‘this one chance in all of eternity to enact an identity and to play it out in the real world.’
Towards the end of life, what’s really important to people is to be able to see how their life mattered, how it was meaningful, how there was a story to it that wraps up in a good way.
People who are able to create that kind of narrative, and think of their life in that way, are typically happier. They’re more generative. They’re much more serene and open to the end of life. So that is really good work for people to do. Writing about it is something that a number of my interviewees did. Often my best interviewees were people who had done some writing of memoirs.