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Why do the elderly repeat the same old stories?
Story telling is an ancient cultural practice in almost every civilization. But this noble tradition in oral literature can be a total nuisance at times. Especially in people who keep repeating themselves. Here's how you can manage the habit.
MANY PEOPLE tend to tell the same story or narrate an incident in their lives again and again.

Children do it regularly as show off, because they are often encouraged. Lecturers repeat the same story year after year to different batches of students. My subject in this article is the elderly, who repeat the same story over and over, much to the annoyance of their listeners. Why do they do so? Here are my findings:

Some people repeat ad nauseam as they run out of stories to tell. Some others do so to re-live some past experience. There are also many senior citizens, who, as they age, develop short term memory impairment. They forget they have already told you some story. If this ‘problem’ persists to the extent of nagging you beyond the limits of your patience, then one should seek medical help and rule out dementia.

Some seniors citizens may be fortunate to have captive audience. Grand children, who can not escape listening or some junior in officer before retirement. It may be a case of passive aggression or exercising power over the poor listener. Many listeners are culturally molded to be polite and listen to elders, even if it is boring or a waste of time. Such situations encourage people to repeat the same incidents.

According to CB Bursack, a consultant in geriatrics and gerontology: “as people age, it's natural to tell stories and even repeat them fairly often, as they are trying to make sense of their lives and part of the legacy of a long life is that we view the value of things in our past differently than we did at the time the situation occurred. Also, some older people don't have much to do, therefore they feel they don't have anything to talk about and keep repeating what was once interesting”.

Some older persons may have unspecified nagging fears – say about death. Talking incessantly by repeating the same thing again and again may be one way of getting rid of that fear. Speaking to others relieves some anxiety, no matter what you talk.

How can we manage such a situation as a listener? The best way is simply to listen without interruption or unwanted interjections that may lead to further digressions. Or politely tell the speaker that you have to be going; or look at your watch and make signs of leaving; or change the topic subtly to some thing you would love to listen – say the latest cricket score.

How can we manage this habit if we are such story tellers ourselves? Read a lot and come up with different stories. Tell the same story, embellishing it differently each time. Let your imagination go wild and tell stories that one can not verify at all.
Tape your stories and listen to them. When someone says “you have narrated it earlier”, believe he is right and change the topic. Or finish it quickly (perhaps meekly too). It will be a Win-Win situation if you can become a real good story teller, worth listening to.
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