Once upon a time
People who have reached a certain age have many stories to tell, plenty of wisdom to share, and wonderful experiences that younger generations would love to learn from. Telling your story is important for what it can teach others, but it’s also a wonderful feeling to be truly heard and appreciated for the complex, fascinating, and unique person you are.
In fact, the life experiences of older adults are so important, there are actually programs set up to help them tell their stories, like the Americorp in Eldercare Settings (ACES) initiative. Called the Life Stories Program, it’s a unique initiative that pairs baby-boomer aged professionals with seniors to help them capture and record their life histories.1 ACES volunteers work with specific seniors residences in the United States, so it’s not something that’s available to everyone – but the idea behind it is one that anyone could adapt and implement.
How to create your own Life Stories Program
It’s not about writing a best-selling autobiography; it’s about having the chance to tell your life story in a way that makes you feel safe, comfortable, and heard. Perhaps that means sitting alone in front of your computer. If so, there are resources to help you do just that. Check out Story Circle Network for some great guidelines and advice.
But you might actually prefer to literally tell your story to a group of other people, live and in person. If that’s the case, consider creating your very own story circle.
- Gather like-minded friends who also want a chance to talk about themselves and their life experiences.
- Find a public space that will accommodate your storytellers and a small audience. A party room in an apartment, a library, or a room in a community or seniors center would all work perfectly.
- Ask your participants to plan a 5 – 10 minute talk during which they can tell a story about their life. They can read it or simply retell it. How they present the information isn’t nearly as important as the actual act of sharing a piece of their lives.
- If you want, allow 5 minutes for questions or comments after each story has been told.
- Encourage your participants to invite their children and grandchildren along, but mention that children may be in the audience so they know to adjust language and content for small listeners.
- Ask someone to audio or videotape the story circle session so the stories can live on. If a storyteller isn’t comfortable with their story being recorded, they should have the opportunity to request that recording devices be turned off during their session.
- Obviously you can’t tell your whole life story in 10 minutes, so make this a monthly event and spread the word so others can participate regularly too.
How young people can get involved
If you have a high-school aged child or grandchild who is interested in living history and enjoys listening to older people tell their stories, they might want to look into volunteering with the Storied Lives program.
Storied Lives is a student volunteer program in the United States that encourages students to visit with and then write the life story of a senior in a nursing home. The program is currently only running in just a few states, but students can apply to start a local Storied Lives chapter in their area, regardless of where in the world they live.
This is a fantastic idea for students who need volunteer hours, because both the students and seniors benefit tremendously from each other.
The moral of the story is that your story matters. Your precious insights and amazing experiences can be invaluable resources for younger generations, and they want to hear what you have to say. They really do.
413801G CAN/US (06/16)