Legacy projects are creative endeavors with the intention to leave something meaningful to those who come after us. Often, they are tangible representations of our life experiences or lessons we want to share with the next generations. At its core, a legacy project captures some meaningful aspect of our unique presence and preserves it for the benefit of those who follow us.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Legacy Project Ideas for Students
- Legacy Project Ideas for Young and Middle-Aged Adults
- Legacy Project Ideas for Older Adults
Below we will explore a variety of legacy project ideas that are appropriate for a range of ages and abilities. Whether you are looking for a project for yourself or hoping to inspire a loved one, think about what the project aims to capture or express about your (or their) life and what format might suit that expression.
From writing to crafting to collecting, there are many types of projects for many types of people. You may also be interested in thinking about your digital legacy and what will remain of your online presence after you die.
And if you're interested in unique ways to continue the legacy of a loved one who passed away, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.
Legacy Project Ideas for Students
Legacy projects aren’t only for the end of life. Consider, for example, a collaborative project completed by a graduating class meant as a gift to incoming students.
We have much to share with those who follow us. Think about the lessons and wisdom we can bestow as we move on. Alternatively, we can think of legacy projects as chances to reflect on our lives so far. No matter how young, we all have valuable stories to tell.
1. Tile wall
A special way for students to leave their mark at their school is through a legacy tile wall.
They can create artwork, drawings, or messages on tile squares that are then permanently mounted as a creative gift for future classes—as well as a visual memento they (or their descendants) can return to for fond memories in later years.
Even the events of a child’s relatively short lifetime can make a great commemorative piece. Capture milestones, add photos, and tell the story of their life so far.
They will appreciate having these early memories documented—and may even choose to continue it through adulthood. Before long they’ll have a visual autobiography that can be passed down to their grandchildren someday!
3. Hand casting
A keepsake replica of a child’s small hands (or shoes, feet, etc.) will be a treasure appreciated by parents, later by the grown child themself, and perhaps even later by their descendants.
Hand casting kits are available from craft stores or online, while mail-in services can be used for bronzing shoe other mementos.
4. “What I Learned” letter
When leaving a grade level or graduating from school, students can be asked to document their lessons learned so they can be shared with the next cohort of students.
Advice could range from philosophical (“believe you can succeed this year”) to practical (“practice your locker combination before school”).
5. Legacy project challenge
This can be a great way for students to identify and pursue a service project that positively impacts the community. Students can then share their project’s outcomes with others through a poster session or public event.
This allows students to choose activities and community beneficiaries that appeal to them, design the service projects, and then capture their positive impacts.
6. Vision for the future
Whether at graduation or another milestone, sharing our dreams with others is a great way to capture the optimism of childhood and inspire others with our vision for a brighter future.
Consider writing down these aspirations—or preserving them on audio or video recordings—so they can be returned to later in life, and passed down for years to come.
Legacy Project Ideas for Young or Middle-Aged Adults
We don’t need to wait until old-age to think about how we will be remembered. Middle-age is a great time to evaluate and reflect on the fruits of our labor and our goals for a lasting legacy.
Whether you are interested in curating a gift to your children, extended family, or the broader community, consider these ideas for unique projects that will create lasting treasures.
7. Legacy collage
At middle-age, we may have gathered a range of mementos or family heirlooms from our lives, those of our children, and our ancestors. Think about how you might like to creatively organize these to tell the story of an individual life (yours or another), your nuclear family, or extended family.
Pull together scanned photos, letters, drawings, small keepsakes, and other meaningful items from special events, hobbies, and everyday life. You could also add flourishes like timelines, or religious text, or funny quotes.
8. Video recording
You carry your smartphone everywhere, right? Why not start making a collection of keepsake videos that you and your loved ones will treasure someday?
Capture everyday life, certainly, but also think about interviewing family members about the past or children about their future. You can archive and edit these videos on many online platforms then share them with the whole family.
If you have the time and interest to complete a genealogical research project, this can be an incredible gift to your family—and one that they can maintain for generations to come. There are lots of excellent online resources, as well as some great books on genealogy, too.
Remember that you may recall stories and have access to documents that future generations may not, so you could be in a great position to become a family historian.
10. Recipe box
Every family has recipes that are passed down and beloved by all, but has anyone in your family taken the time to organize a recipe box or cookbook?
Before these recipes are lost, take some time to collect them and preserve a piece of your heritage. Your hungry descendants will thank you!
11. Signature project
One way of creating a lasting legacy is to leave a long-lived gift to the broader community.
This could be a contribution (of time, money, or talent) to an important cause, something built or crafted, or even a victory in achieving changes you want to see in the world. By creating or catalyzing something that will last beyond your lifespan, you can make a positive imprint on the world for future generations.
12. Legacy quilt
Do you like to work with your hands? Even if you’ve never quilted, you may want to consider this fun and creative project. Have you or others in your family saved baby blankets, special clothing items, important fabrics, or nostalgic t-shirts?
Use these pieces to create a one-of-a-kind item to gift or display. Or get creative and create panels that tell your life story. You could even have loved ones write messages with fabric markers or paint panels with fabric paints.
Legacy Project Ideas for Older Adults
Our later years are a natural time to consider projects that celebrate or reckon with our life stories.
This section includes both projects that seniors can undertake themselves and projects that a loved one could coordinate during their final days (or in some cases, even after their death).
Telling the story of your life in your own words can be one of the greatest gifts to loved ones. With the time and perspective afforded by retirement, this might be a good time to reflect on your past and share the stories and circumstances unique to your lifetime.
Looking through photos or conversing with family and friends can help jump-start your memories. You can write chronologically, gather vignettes, or even combine writings on specific topics instead.
14. Legacy letters
Even if you don’t write an autobiography, consider how shorter written pieces might be used to communicate important messages to loved ones. Legacy letters can be of any length and on any topic—consider how you might express a story or memory meaningfully to your recipient.
You might extend a welcome to a new grandchild, a blessing to a sibling, or an apology to an estranged friend. Such a letter may have great significance to others after you are gone.
15. Ethical will
An ethical will is a personal (non-legal) document that can be used to transmit values, experiences, and life lessons to your family.
Ethical wills are a tradition in some religions, and are referenced in the Hebrew and Christian bibles. While a legal will distributes material wealth, an ethical will distributes a wealth of wisdom. It is a heartfelt expression of what matters most to you—and a lasting gift to those who love you.
16. Treasure box
Do you have a collection of keepsakes from your life? Or maybe even items that have been passed down to you?
Collect these treasures in a special box and consider writing a bit about each one so that future generations can grasp the history and meaning of each item. Photos and letters are cherished components as well.
17. Audio recording
If you have a smartphone or another portable recording device, consider all of the ways that an audio record of you and your family’s lives might be a blessing for others to hear someday.
Many find it easier to speak than write, so you may also have a better chance of capturing stories that have never been preserved.
18. Memorials and obituaries
Some of us take charge of our life story by writing our own obituary or curating an online memorial. Other times, we are in a position to write an obituary for a loved one. These life summaries can be a legacy project in and of themselves.
If you are doing this project to honor someone else’s life, there are many creative ways to remember a family member or loved one, including online memorial sites with tools for expanding simple written obituaries into multimedia archives.
Creating memories and heirlooms is a lifelong journey that you can embark on no matter your age or health status. With some foresight, you can create a meaningful commemoration of your life for your loved ones and generations to come.
While you’re doing this sort of planning, create a Cake profile to document your final wishes as another priceless (and practical) gift to your loved ones.