Stepping up for seniors 

A special three-part series highlighting MRU alumni making a difference for Calgary seniors

Erika Holter and Geoff Crane


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Alumnus Al Del Degan helps older adults record their life story to share with future generations.  


The COVID-19 pandemic has upset life for everyone, but the jarring effects have hit Calgary’s older adults especially hard. 

Beyond the increased risks to their physical health due to the virus’s potency in older age groups, the measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be particularly difficult for older individuals who often live alone or are in varying forms of isolation. 

In a special three-part series, we’re profiling alumni who are taking action to keep older adults connected and advocate for their needs during the pandemic.

Read part one.

 

Mount Royal alumnus helps to preserve legacies

Al Del Degan's life mission is to help people record their life’s story to be remembered and passed on to family for generations to come. His unique business, Capturing Legacies, provides individuals with the opportunity to reflect on their most important memories, family stories and life events.

The business was inspired by Del Degan’s father, an immigrant from Italy who came to Canada with little more than a dream of making a good life for himself.

“My dad was telling my children stories of what it was like growing up in Italy,” says Del Degan, a graduate from Mount Royal’s Arts and Sciences Diploma — Computer Science program. “They were hanging on his every word and I started to realize I’d never heard these stories in my life.”

He approached his dad about recording some of his stories for posterity and although his father was hesitant at first, he agreed to do it.

“It was unbelievable,” says Del Degan, recalling how the older man lit up as he began sharing his memories. “He was getting so animated, jumping up and down, running around the room miming the important things that had happened to him in his life.” The next day, Del Degan’s father showed up early for their next session.

Del Degan says this is not an uncommon occurrence for him and his team. Although people are initially hesitant to look back, feeling that their life story might not be that exciting or interesting for their families, the process of reflection throws light on a life filled with rich experiences.

“I think people don’t need to focus on the fact that they didn’t cure cancer or were a colonel in the army, just what was life like when you were young? That story alone is incredibly fascinating to everyone else,” Del Degan says. He notices that the process of preserving and sharing a legacy helps build connections between generations, as families gain a greater understanding of their own history.

"If people are thinking that they should record their parent’s story, yes, you should. And get on it right away. One thing I hear consistently is ‘Where were you a couple years ago when my mom was still alive?’” Del Degan knows first-hand it is not something you want to put off, having been contracted to work with clients in palliative care who sadly passed away before they could finish recording their legacy.

Today, the impact of the pandemic means Del Degan can no longer meet in person with his older adult clients. Del Degan is revamping his company’s interview process as an online application, which will allow clients to record stories and walks them through a step-by-step questionnaire to prompt memories and help them organize their thoughts.

Del Degan hopes this will be a breakthrough solution for his older clients, who he has seen getting more motivated to learn new technology in an effort to stay connected with loved ones they can’t see in person right now. 

“My hope is that our company can provide a special way for families to stay connected with their loved ones, and for our senior community members to have something positive and enjoyable to look forward to as long as this pandemic lasts.” 

Capturing Legacies Inc. is one of the many alumni-owned businesses featured in our MRU Alumni Business Directory. If you know of an alumni-owned business that should be added to this roster, please let us know.