There is an increasing focus on promoting person-centred systems across continuing care settings, emphasizing the need to enhance the quality of life of older adults. Life story books (LSB) can provide a holistic view of older adults, promote relationship-centred care and enhance person-centred care. The process of developing LSB involve collecting and recording aspects of a person's life both past and present. The purpose of this study was to engage residents in developing life story books in a nursing home setting and then to explore the narratives and documented life story books with residents and their families. A qualitative descriptive exploratory design was utilized for the study. Five residents and three family carers participated. Focus groups were tape recorded and thematically analyzed and a review of the LSB was conducted. The central themes from the data analysis related to the social construction of people's lives, social roles and religious values, relationships and loss, and sense of self. © 2008 Dove Medical Press Limited. All rights reserved.