When families visit with elder relatives, it can occasionally feel awkward or stilted because there may not be much in the way of current events to discuss. However, if you treat each visit like an educational experience for your kids (and yourself), you may find that you look forward to every trip!

Asking grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as any elderly relative, about their pasts, can result in some fascinating answers. Not only do you get to learn about life at a time when you weren’t around (or maybe weren’t cognizant of what was happening around you), but you’ll also be showing interest in a topic with which your loved one is very familiar. Additionally, not only will it cement the value you place in that relative, but it can also help them retain memories and may create new ones. This type of socialization is essential for seniors and results in improvements to their mental and physical health.

What should you ask? Well, we’ve compiled a list of questions that will likely spark some great stories, and you can ask them in any order. If you want, make a game out of it by writing the questions on slips of paper and drawing them from a hat! More importantly, give the person the space to share their memories comfortably and at their own pace. Don’t rush them, and don’t interrupt.

Here are 20 great story starters you can use next time you’re visiting an elder relative:

  1. Where were you born? Can you show me on a map?
  2. What did your parents do for jobs?
  3. Who was your best friend in school?
  4. What was your hometown like?
  5. Did you like school? What was it like?
  6. What was your first job?
  7. What was your favorite job?
  8. When did you figure out what you wanted to do for a career?
  9. What was dating like when you were a teenager?
  10. What was your first car like?
  11. What were the popular trends or fads?
  12. When did you meet your husband (or wife)?
  13. What do you remember from the news when you were a kid?
  14. What kind of hobbies did you have?
  15. Did you ever go on any vacations? What was your favorite?
  16. Did you have a pet?
  17. What kind of music did you listen to? Did you go out dancing?
  18. Did you play a sport or do some other type of extracurricular activity?
  19. Have you ever met anyone famous?
  20. What was your favorite TV show?

Enjoy your educational experience, and remember to thank your loved one for everything they did to bring you into this world and provide for you, as well as to share their lives with you in this way.