How to Make a Family Notebook – for Senior Citizens

how to make a family notebookDo you know how to make a family notebook? We all need a notebook of emergency information in a convenient spot in the house — just in case. As we age, the need for a family notebook is even more pronounced. In this post, I will tell you how to organize a binder so that in the event of emergency, your family can be contacted or your neighbors alerted.

I recently rearranged my notebook to include emergency numbers, family history and stories, “wisdom” I want my children to know, last wishes and funeral plans.

How to Make a Family  Notebook – Gather Your Supplies

The first thing you need to do is gather your materials. You can use a plain 3 ring binder, as I did, or use a personalized binder. The personalized binders at Zazzle are really pretty. When I get further along with my book, I am going to get a pretty one at Zazzle.

You will also need top loading acrylic sheets for a 3 ring binder. I like the convenience of printing a page, and slipping it into a protector in my notebook. You will also want tabs so your family can find the information they need. I used regular Post-It tabs and learned quickly that the tabs need to be at the top of the divider!

Aged Look Retro Vintage Family BinderAged Look Retro Vintage Family BinderAvery Acid Free Economy Sheet ProtectorsAvery Acid Free Economy Sheet Protectors


Please do not let the steps overwhelm you. Decide to make a family notebook.  Then, set up your notebook, and add one something to it every day — and on the days you don’t get it done, you still get an A! This is a long term project — not something you can do over a weekend.

How to Make a Family Notebook – The Details 

make a family notebookI used a family collage for my cover.

Emergency Information   The first section of my notebook is filled with phone numbers of family, friends, neighbors, doctor, pharmacist and a list of medications for both of us.   I also asked my closest friends and neighbors for a list of relatives and their contact information.  If you were called to be with your dear friend during a family emergency, do you know how to contact his/her children?

Write Your Stories

In the next section of my family notebook, I included our stories.  We are both working on our autobiographies. Rather than take the chance our stories might end up lost in our computer, I print a copy of every completed page, and slip it into the binder. Some days I write one little story. Other days, I write more. The notebook is like a file cabinet to me. It holds our stories until we are ready to publish and in the event we do not get that far, the children and grandchildren can decide what to do with them. (Of course, I hope they will make copies for everybody!)  Please do not sit and reflect on your memories without writing them down for future generations.

The Journey: A Celebration of Life: A Guidebook for Writing Your Life StoryThe Journey: A Celebration of Life: A Guidebook for Writing Your Life StoryHow to Write Your Personal or Family History: (If You Don'T Do It, Who Will?)How to Write Your Personal or Family History: (If You Don’T Do It, Who Will?)Legacy : A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal HistoryLegacy : A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal HistoryYour Story: A Guided Interview Through Your Personal and Family HistoryYour Story: A Guided Interview Through Your Personal and Family History


Share Your Wisdom

Over the years, we have all managed to learn a thing or two.   I refer to my wisdom pages as The Gospel According to Joan.  Call yours whatever you like, but do leave some bits of wisdom, favorite poems or Bible verses, favorite books, favorite music.

You think your children already know all that, don’t you?   I dare you to ask them:  “What is my favorite song?  What is my favorite quote?   How do I want to be remembered?

Living and Dying — What are Your Wishes?

No matter how many times you have had the discussion with your children, the job is not complete until the paperwork is done.  People tell horror stories all the time — “I did not know what she wanted me to do.”   “I never thought he would end up like this.”

One of the most meaningful events of my life was a game called My Gift of Grace.  A friend and I played the game with some other ladies one day at our local Hospice.  We laughed and we wept as we shared our feelings about our life and death.  You can play the game again and again, and in so doing, learn how to answer that stack of necessary forms about death and dying.  Search in google for your state forms for Advance Directives, Living Wills,  and Power of Attorney. Include copies of these forms in your family notebook.  Watch this video for a quick idea of how  The Gift of Grace game works.

Card game sparks conversations about death

Designers from Philadelphia’s The Action Mill talk about why they believe “The Gift of Grace” helps families and friends discuss dying and even how it inspires players to lead a more fufilling life. For more information, visit: Video by Kimberly Paynter.

What are Your Funeral Plans?

We will all die one day. Do you care about how your funeral is conducted? If that is an issue for you, please make some notes and leave them in your family notebook.   If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.   Write it down.  Put it in your notebook.   Do you choose to be cremated?  Do you insist on a church funeral or is it okay to have a service at the funeral home?   Do you want a formal service or a casual memory sharing event?

How to Plan a Funeral: And Other Things You Need to Know When a Loved One DiesHow to Plan a Funeral: And Other Things You Need to Know When a Loved One DiesThe Ultimate To Do List When Your Loved One Dies: Before & After the FuneralThe Ultimate To Do List When Your Loved One Dies: Before & After the Funeral



Learning how to make a family notebook is so important to your family.  If you have read to this point, congratulations and thank you.   This is such a loving thing to do for your family and friends.

life after 60



PS My sister sent me a link to another great resource regarding our required paperwork. What My Family Needs to Know    I just went through and printed the pages I need.

I continue to add to these great resources.  This one is called Five Wishes. — Changing the way we talk about and plan for care at the end of life.

About jta

South Carolina grandmother who loves to write, dance, and visit with friends and family.
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8 Responses to How to Make a Family Notebook – for Senior Citizens

  1. Joan, this is exactly what I need to know and to do. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s the perfect thing for my needs so that my children know me. Once my Mom was gone, I felt sad that I had not questioned her more about her wishes, and her life because it would have comforted me. Now I can do that for my family, so thanks again.

    • jta says:

      Thank you, Nancy. I am thankful for any small treasure of mama’s words that I can find. I have her diary the year she met our dad — and a few letters, etc. but not nearly all that I would like to know. Mama had early-onset Alzheimers at the age of 56 and for the next 10 years until she died. So we were all too young to realize the importance of knowing her story better.

  2. I was just thinking how important a book like this is at any age. I sure hope that my folks have everything written down in case we need it, and not just their wills!

    But for a young family, writing kids’ routines and habits down could be helpful in case of an emergency like the fires in Fort McMurray right now. Sometimes family can’t stay together, and an adult could do with a little info about a child staying with them….

    • jta says:

      Oh yes, I totally agree, Kyla. Every family needs an emergency plan of some kind, depending on where they are in life. I love your idea about the children’s routines and habits. That would be such a comfort to them in a crisis.

  3. Kathy McGraw says:

    I too think this is a good idea. Each of us could modify it to fit our needs, like maybe someone doesn’t have any kids and what happens then? Good resources Joan, thanks.

    • jta says:

      Indeed, Kathy, each one of us will have a different style, different priorities — and even if some of us do no more than the emergency phone numbers, it’s worth doing. I just shared my way — and I have struggled for years to come up with a system that would work for me. This seems to be working. Just one little thing at a time. I don’t intend to ever finish it!

  4. What a great idea, Joan. I will be making one of these for my family and shared with an Alzheimer’s group on Pinterest. Those with Alzheimer’s love viewing photos of past history and family days that they remember. This is just perfect!
    Thank you,

  5. Hi Joan,
    Great suggestions both for the senior citizen and for the family. Peace of mind for all!

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