Oral History Gerontology

Oral History Gerontology

According to the Oral History Association an  “Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events”.  Their link is a great resource. http://www.oralhistory.org/about/do-oral-history/

A grandparent or relative would be a good choice or option.  It is important to remember the oral history is a reminiscence or re-memorizing of the individual’s life story.  As a story sometimes wanders, so may the person being interviewed wander in their own storytelling.  It is about the person – according to how that person remembers their own story.

It is important to have questions available to be answered.  Many times one question will lead to another, so allow the interviewee to take the lead in what they would like to discuss.   Be prepared to ask question, but also be prepared to not have all your questions answered.   This interview should be no longer than 1 hour.


Description                             Possible Points              Points Earned

Is the person over the age of 60 and clearly labeled with date of birth and demographic information?


Informed consent is attached.  If there is no informed consent you will be given a 0 until the informed consent in received.  This should be done before the interview starts.


15 points

There were at least 5 different topics covered from the list below.


The topics are clearly labeled.  Each topic is worth 4 points

20 points  
The oral history is written in an interesting manner with an objective point of view.


It is written for the interviewee purpose.  The writer’s opinion is not expressed.

10 points  
The spirit of the person is easily able to be seen though the narrative.


The writer allows the personality to be seen through the narrative.


It is apparent that the interviewee has had ample time to share their story.

20 points  
Contains some personal items for the interviewee can visually see their history.  This includes a cover page of the interviewee.


This section helps the reader visualize the personality of the interviewee.


Suggestions: favorite poems, bible verses, songs, pictures that describe the narrative.


Utilize art or color into the oral history.

10 points  



Packaged” to present to interviewee.


This should be presented in a professional manner.


There should be no grammar/spelling errors.


This should not be given to the interviewee until Professor Hickey approves it.


10 points  
Grammar and punctuation.


There should be no errors.


5 points  
Minimum of 5 to 7 pages not including cover page and handed in by the due date on the contract. 10 points  
Total points possible. 100  
Total points earned.    


Oral History Questions:

This is a list of question that can be introduced.  Remember let the interviewee take the lead on the questions.  You may want to ask is there anything that you want to focus on or allow other’s to know about them.


What is your full name and why were you so named?

Were you named after somebody else?

  1. Did you have a nickname as you were growing up?
  2. If you did, what was it and why did they call you that?
  3. Have you had other nicknames as an adult?
  4. What do family members call you now?
  5. Where were you born and when?
  6. Do you remember hearing your grandparents describe their lives? What did they say?
  7. Do you remember your great-grandparents? What do you know about them?
  8. Who was the oldest person you can remember in your family as a child? What do you remember about them?
  9. Do you remember your family discussing world events and politics?
  10. Was there a chore you really hated doing as a child?
  11. What would you consider to be the most important inventions that have been made during your lifetime?
  12. How is the world now different from what it was like when you were a child?
  13. What kinds of books did you like to read?
  14. Do you remember having a favorite nursery rhyme or bedtime story? What was it?
  15. Do you ever remember not having enough food to eat because times were hard for your family?
  16. What were your favorite toys and what were they like?
  17. What were your favorite childhood games?
  18. What were your schools like?
  19. How did you get to school?
  20. What was your favorite subject in school and why?
  21. What subject in school was always the easiest for you?
  22. What was your least favorite subject in school and why?
  23. Who was your favorite teacher and why were they special?
  24. How do your fellow classmates from school remember you best?
  25. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  26. Did you and your friends have a special hang-out where you liked to spend time? Where was it and what did you do there?
  27. Were you ever given any special awards for your studies or school activities?
  28. How many years of education have you completed?
  29. Do you have a college degree? If so, what was your field of study?
  30. Did you get good grades?
  31. Did you like school?
  32. What did you like the most and the least about it?
  33. What did you usually wear to school? Describe it.
  34. Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly?
  35. How old were you when you started dating?
  36. Do you remember your first date? Describe the circumstances.
  37. Name a good friend that you have known for the longest period of time? How many years have you been friends?
  38. Has there ever been anyone in your life that you would consider to me your kindred spirit or soul mate? If so, who were they and why did you feel a special bond to them?
  39. How did you meet the person that you would later marry? Describe them?
  40. Do you remember where you went on the first date with your spouse?
  41. How long did you know them before you got married?
  42. Describe your wedding proposal.
  43. When and where did you get married?
  44. Describe your wedding ceremony. Who was there?
  45. Did you have a honeymoon? If so, where did you go?
  46. How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
  47. How long have you been married (or were you married)?
  48. What wise advice would you give to a grandchild on their wedding day?
  49. How did you find out that you were going to be a parent for the first time?
  50. How many children did you have all together?
  51. What were their names, birthdates and birthplaces?
  52. Do you remember anything that your children did when they were small that really amazed you?
  53. What is one of the most unusual things that one of your children did regularly when they were small?
  54. What was the funniest thing you can remember that one of your children said or did?
  55. If you had it to do all over again, would you change the way you raised your family? How?
  56. What did you find most difficult about raising children?
  57. What did you find most rewarding about being a parent?
  58. Did you spoil any of your children? How?
  59. Were you a strict or lenient parent?
  60. Did you find that you had to treat each of your children differently? If so, why?
  61. How did you first hear that you were a grandparent and how did you feel about it?
  62. What advice do you have for your children and grandchildren?
  63. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  64. What was your first job?
  65. What kinds of jobs have you had?
  66. How did you decide on your career?
  67. Did you make enough money to live comfortably?
  68. How long did you have to work each day at your job?
  69. How old were you when you retired?
  70. What were the hardest choices that you ever had to make? On reflection, did you make the right choices?
  71. Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your life? Who were they and what did they do?
  72. Is there a person that really changed the course of your life by something that they did? Who were they and what did they do?
  73. Do you remember someone saying something to you that had a big impact on how you lived your life? What was it?
  74. How would you describe yourself politically?
  75. Are you Conservative, Socialist or Liberal and why?
  76. What wars have been fought during your lifetime? How did you feel about them?
  77. If you served in the military, when and where did you serve and what were your duties?
  78. If you served in the military, were you ever injured in the line of duty? What were the circumstances and what were your injuries?
  79. As you see it, what are the biggest problems that face our nation and how do you think they could be solved?
  80. How tall are you?
  81. What color was your hair as a young child and then as an adult?
  82. What color are your eyes?
  83. Where have you lived as an adult? List the places and the years that you lived there.
  84. Why are you living where you are today?
  85. Do you wish you lived somewhere else (If so, where would it be)?
  86. Describe your general health.
  87. What major illnesses or health problems do you remember having?
  88. Do you have any health problems that are considered hereditary in nature? If so, what are they?
  89. What do you do regularly for exercise?
  90. Do you have any bad habits now or in the past? What were they?
  91. Have you ever been the victim of a crime? What happened?
  92. Have you ever been in a serious accident?
  93. Has anyone ever saved your life? Describe.
  94. Have you ever saved anyone else’s life? Describe.
  95. Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, what for?
  96. Have you ever had surgery? If so, what for?
  97. If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
  98. Have you ever had an experience that you would consider to be super-natural or psychic? Did you ever know something was going to happen before it actually did? What was it?
  99. What do you usually dream about?

What church, if any, do you attend regularly?

Describe your religious beliefs.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

What was the most stressful experience that you ever lived through? What helped you get through it?

What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you personally?

What kinds of musical instrument(s) have you learned to play?

Would you consider yourself creative?

What things have you made that others have enjoyed?

How would you describe your sense of humor?

What is the funniest practical joke you ever played on anyone?

What activities have you especially enjoyed as an adult?

What are your hobbies?

What did you like to do when you were not working?

What is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you?

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

Have you ever met any famous people? Describe what happened.

What organizations and groups have you belonged to?

Have you ever won any special awards or prizes as an adult? What were they for?

Describe a time and place when you remember feeling truly at peace and happy to be alive. Where you and what were you doing?

What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited and what was it like?

What is the longest trip that you have ever gone on? Where did you go?

What has been your favorite vacation? Where did you go and why was it                 special?

What was the favorite place you ever visited and what was it like?

What pets have you had?

Do you have a favorite story about a pet? What is it?

Is there anything you have always wanted to do, but haven’t?


  1. What is your favorite style of music?
  2. What is your favorite musical instrument?
  3. Who is your favorite musical group?
  4. What is your favorite song?
  5. Who is your favorite singer?
  6. Who is your favorite movie star?
  7. What is your favorite movie?
  8. Who is your favorite artist?
  9. What is your favorite painting?
  10. Who is your favorite poet?
  11. What is your favorite poem?
  12. What is your favorite TV programmer?
  13. Who is your favorite author?
  14. What is your favorite book?
  15. What is your favorite season?
  16. What is your favorite tree?
  17. What is your favorite flower?
  18. What is your favorite holiday?
  19. What is your favorite color?
  20. What is your favorite sport?
  21. Who is your favorite athlete?
  22. What is your favorite animal?
  23. What is your favorite meal?
  24. What is your favorite fruit?
  25. What is your favorite vegetable?
  26. What is your favorite candy?
  27. What is your favorite biscuit?
  28. What is your favorite drink?
  29. What is your favorite restaurant?
  30. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  31. What is your favorite board game?
  32. What is your favorite card game?

Family Descriptions

If you had to pick a label for your family members (your spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts & uncles, cousins), who best fits the following descriptions?

  1. the best cook
  2. the hardest-worker
  3. the quietest
  4. the best memory
  5. the best gardener
  6. the funniest
  7. the best-looking
  8. the animal lover
  9. the most politically-active
  10. the most mischievous
  11. the calmest
  12. the most athletic
  13. the most intelligent
  14. the most educated
  15. the best career
  16. the most creative
  17. the wildest lifestyle
  18. the most sociable
  19. the biggest tease
  20. the best house-keeper
  21. the most reclusive
  22. the most colorful
  23. the most relaxed
  24. the most frugal
  25. the most generous
  26. the tallest
  27. the shortest
  28. the best story-teller


More Questions:


Entrance into the Workforce

Where were you born? Did you move around a lot?

What kinds of activities did you do when you were growing up?

What kind of work did your parents do?

What kind of expectations did your family have when you were growing up?

What age did you start working?

What level of education did you complete before entering the workforce? Was education required for your job?

What was your living situation when you entered the workforce?

Why did you enter the workforce when you did?

When you entered the workforce what were your options? (Job, college, military, etc.)

Who influenced you into your job? Did you have a choice?

How did you get your job?

What were your expectations when you started work, of what your working life would be like?


Your Job

How many different jobs did you have?

What kind of work did you do? Did this change over time?

How did you feel about your work? Did you enjoy it?

What was a typical day at work? How many hours did you work?

How did you get along with your co-workers and your employer?

How were you treated at your job? (Would it have been different . . .?)

What job would you have chosen if you had chosen a different one?

Where did you live in relation to your work? How did you get to work?

How did you feel when you got home at the end of the day?

Did you have benefits with your job?

Was there room for advancement or a career path?

Did you have job security?

What did you like most/least about your job?

What were you working for?

Are you still working? Why not (or, why?)


Gender and the Job

Did your gender determine the job you performed? (Did men and women do the same kind of work?)

What was the wage difference, if any, between genders?

Did you see a difference in the ways males and females were treated in the workplace?

Was your job typical for a man (woman)?

Was it different when you were single and when you were married?

Was there a point in your working life when things started getting different for women?



Your Family

Who was the wage-earner in your family?

Was your salary enough to support your family? Did you have savings?

Did your children work? All or just some (boys more than girls)?

Did your spouse work?

Was your family supportive of your job?

Was it different after you had children?

Who took care of the children when you worked?

Do you think you had better employment opportunities than your parents?

Do you think your children will have different options than what you had? What kind of work would you like to see your children do?


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply