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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Elder Stories (part of How I Spent My Summer)

It's almost a running joke that students are expected to write about "How I Spent My Summer."  Back on May 3 of this year I recognized a sabbatical from my usual storytelling commitments was needed.  While some storytelling did sneak into my schedule, the work that came the closest to being a major change of pace was described this way:
  • Most of my work includes research, which is why this blog is titled Storytelling + Research = LoiS.  (Didn't realize, when choosing my title, the "+" and "=" signs would not show up in the address!)  I have begun work on a project continuing through this summer which does not lend itself to posting on these pages.  I will be working with some very special people in Alzheimer's and Dementia groups.  Patient confidentiality prevents my telling the results of this work.  Last summer at the National Storytelling Network conference, I assisted, Liz Nichols in her presentation of the TimeSlips program.  There is a great deal of information about this exciting and fun way to invoke communication and creativity among this very special population without relying on memory.  For yet another view of its use, you might go to Mary Clark's article for NSN's special interest group, the  Healing Story Alliance.  Perhaps you will catch some of the excitement I feel in working on this project! 
Working with Alzheimer's and Dementia patients and their caregivers was a delight!  I want to do much more of leading them in creating stories based not upon memory, but upon what they see.  The sharing and opportunity to have fun with others, added to the maintenance of communication and even creativity, was contagious.  Calling my own version of it "Elder Stories", I offered an assortment of pictures to each group, letting them choose their favorite for each session.  Because I knew history was an interest among some of the members, I used photographs or illustrations that included 20th century and late 19th century.  Norman Rockwell was a favorite.  The stories may have been totally different from what actually happened in a photograph or what the illustrator had in mind.  Doesn't matter.  To paraphrase Shakespeare's Hamlet, The story's the thing wherein we capture the imagination that still exists.

If you know of any group that would like to try Elder Stories and is here in Michigan, please contact me.  Beyond Michigan I suggest the hotlinked resources named above.  It will take longer to develop your own program, but is definitely worthwhile.

On a personal note, beyond the Elder Stories, I also mentioned "a very important personal project in my life" and that "I hope to post more about it later at its successful conclusion."  There was indeed a successful conclusion, but am not yet ready to turn it into a part of my storytelling life.  Storytelling isn't all research or performance, it takes time to process an experience or prepare a story.  This has been one of those projects.  We'll see if it develops beyond my personal life. 

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