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“Stuff” Should Do More than Take Up Space

Artifcts on Dementia MapSubmitted by Ellen Goodwin
Co-founder and Chief Solutions Officer

When we set out to create Artifcts – an online and mobile app helping you to capture the stories behind your life’s mementos, collections, and cherished objects – we did not know that only a year later our personal lives would intersect directly with the Alzheimer’s community.

Hearing a loved one’s diagnosis puts things into harsh perspective. Sure, we had a head start Artifcting items of extreme sentimental value to us and our loved ones. But more than that we gained a crystal-clear view of the enemy – time. There simply is not always another day, week, month, or year to capture your stories or a loved ones’.

The Power of Stories

So today we want to reflect on the powerful pairing of our stories with all that we collect and accumulate in life – the “stuff.” Through this pairing, we can give shape and texture to our personal legacies, potentially preserve financial value, and avoid undue heartache and strife when our lives are over.

We can at least gift our loved ones a “why” for all that stuff they will one day inherit.

Stories + Stuff

We did not unite stories and stuff by accident. The objects we all collect in life not only can possess great emotional and financial value, but they do even more: they are great connectors and conversation starters.


An object is not you. No person, family member, or stranger is sitting you down and asking you to spill your life story.

The object is an “it.” You can hold it, touch it, observe it from a distance. It’s depersonalized. Safe. And yet the reality is that we know how easily we can attach deep value to even seemingly benign objects making them a great starting point for our personal histories.

Jeff Greenwald, author of 108 Beloved Objects, taught us to “Start with something true” when you want to unlock the stories behind objects. So, consider:

  • What is it?
  • Where is it from?
  • Why do you have it?

From that simple start, bit by bit, a story unfolds quite naturally. Sometimes the story will abruptly end (“no further details”) or be interrupted by another tangentially related story, and you go with the flow.

The Art of Stories and the Stories of Art

We have learned that artwork is a particularly interesting category of “stuff” with stories in addition to being a popular activity and means of expression, including for those living with Alzheimer’s. If you have not already, visit the Alzheimer’s Speaks art gallery and you’ll soon see what I mean!

Over at, we have seen beautiful stories and artistic creations captured, too, by people of all ages and in mediums that vary from photographs and illustrations to crafts and paintings.

A ceramic that reminds the creator of her start


Each bead, each thread, is symbolic


A digital artistic masterpiece of a personal place of solace


And behind each piece of art so much meaning can exist. Not always, of course! Sometimes art, like a sport or other hobby, is just a means to let off energy, steam, grief, frustration… any number of emotions. Other times it is not the end result, the artwork, that’s important but the “who” you created it with that matters.

How Does Artifcts Help?

Research tells us how critical social engagement and sense of purpose are at all ages, but particularly as we age. Artifcts supports healthy aging in multiple ways:

1. Intergenerational time together. Artifcting, e.g., a grandparent and grandchild pair, not only provides 1:1 time but provides an opening for story-sharing that reminds everyone “Your. Stories. Matter.”

2. Decreasing loneliness through Artifcting is also possible, as you Artifct with others or share an Artifct with loved ones, encouraging a conversation, an email, or a simple text exchange.

3. Easing us into difficult conversations with ourselves and our families to be better prepared for the inevitable is another Artifcts bonus. Artifcts create a roadmap that can support estate plans and wills, dispersal of our estates, and conveyance of our legacies and memories. Through better preparedness, we relieve some of the stress of life’s “what-ifs” with the knowledge that we are better prepared and a part of us will live on.

If you are looking to learn more about companies like Artifcts, you may be interested in reading about AgeTech and LongeviTech. Artifcts is part of and contributor to both.

AgeTech is any technology that improves the lives of aging adults. The AARP AgeTech Collaborative seeks to be a leader in supporting new companies in this space.

LongeviTech is a newer and very closely related concept that goes a bit broader to consider both age and longevity and the technology solutions that support financial resilience and well-being. Fintech 4 Longevity is a leading force in this and offers a blog on key topics in LongeviTech.

Activity Time!

Yes, activities are unusual for blogs but bear with us. We think you’ll enjoy it and find it valuable.

Before we begin, if you do nothing else, share just one story about yourself with a loved one. Call someone or send a text or an email, and start with, “Did you know that …” and fill in that blank. We should all be so lucky to have more of the “I never knew that about you!” moments.

At the heart of Artifcts is making it fun and easy to record, once and for all, the meaning behind your belongings, capturing pieces of your own story Artifct by Artifct. Stuff is too often a burden now and on future generations. We can do better, together!

Ready to try it out? Let’s go:

1. Take a look around you. (Hopefully you’re at home! If not, browse the photos and videos on your phone.) Lock eyes on a single object that’s meaningful or valuable to you. Consider: What is it? Why do you have it? What does it mean to you?

2. Grab your phone or tablet and take a picture of it. If you’ve got a smart phone, maybe record a quick video or voice memo, sharing your memories tied to that object.

3. Download the Artifcts app (iOS or Android), or go to, and create a free account – it takes seconds to fill it in and validate your email (or make it simpler and sign in with your existing Google, Facebook, or Apple account).

4. Once you’re signed in, click “+ New Artifct.”

5. Add your photo/video/audio media files. Fill in the required fields marked with an asterisk (*). And don’t worry – you do not need a long story or to be a brilliant writer. Just say a few words and move on. Here are some more tips! You can always edit later. Click save!

What you do next is up to you!

That’s the beauty of a private Artifcts collection that contains all the details that matter to share your story and preserve the value of the object to you. What might you do with your Artifct?

  • Click share and enter the email address of a loved one along with a personal note about your Artifct.
  • Make the Artifct public for the world to discover and enjoy.
  • Download the Artifct to send it to your estate plan or insurance company.
  • Donate, sell, or pass on the object behind the Artifct to someone new if you want to keep the memory, but not the object.
Click here to get started with Artifcts

Would you like some help getting started? We’re here for you! Click the “Ask Artifcts” image above, and we’ll get on a call with you to walk through your questions and get you started.


Artifcts on Dementia MapEllen Goodwin
Co-founder and Chief Solutions Officer

Artifcts is a patent pending consumer technology solution co-founded by Heather Nickerson and Ellen Goodwin, who met and “grew up” together at the US Central Intelligence Agency.

They publicly launched Artifcts in August 2021 as a solution to prevent others from experiencing the grief Heather felt when her mother passed away unexpectedly and left a home filled with ‘stuff’ and none of the stories. Artifcts is an AARP Innovation Labs portfolio company.

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