Life Stories was a 9-month pilot project we started in 2018 and was developed from earlier work with older people in residential care and older people visiting a social café at a local church. Life Stories saw a creative facilitator working on a one-to-one basis with participants, helping them tell their story and communicate what they’re going through. Participants were referred to the project via social prescribers and Local Area Coordinators and throughout their time on the project were supported by the Project Coordinator.
Participants include individuals experiencing bereavement or mental ill-health, as well as people coming to terms with a recent diagnosis such as dementia or autism. Through sharing their stories, people became more able to make sense of the things that were happening to them and, as a result, become stronger and more resilient. They were also able to share their stories with friends and family and across wider social networks, promoting understanding and empathy and reducing feelings of isolation.
Outcomes for participants included:
- Feeling proud of their work: When people saw their stories come to life, they couldn’t believe that their conversations and ideas had resulted in such expressive pieces. They were proud of what they’d produced and wanted to share it.
- Being better able to communicate what they were experiencing: Having someone to talk to and build their story with meant participants had a focus to articulate what was happening in their lives. The drafting of their stories helped people find the words to talk about what was going on with them.
- Feeling more resilient: Life Stories helped people begin to rationalise and understand their experiences and feelings. For several participants, having a safe place to explore what was going on helped them to cope better day-to-day.
- Growing in confidence and engaging with new activities and people: Through taking part in Life Stories, participants have started to find their footing again socially and feel more able to go out, travel, socialise, volunteer and join in group activities.
- Developing new or existing creative skills: People taking part in the project have been surprised by their own creativity, whether that be their storytelling or their visual ideas. It’s also sparked an interest for some people in new technology and rekindled old hobbies and pastimes.
- Feeling less isolated and alone: Having a regular place to go to, and someone to meet with on a regular basis helped reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness for participants. Especially for older people isolated at home.
'I’m so much better in myself doing this project with you all. So, so much better, so much happier, so much more giggly.’ L, Life Stories Participant
'I don’t know what I would have done without you all.’ S, Life Stories participant
Over the nine months Life Stories:
- Engaged eight participants, five of whom went on to take part in several sessions. Of the others, one was supported through Life Stories to find a volunteering opportunity with another organisation and two people were unable to continue taking part due to personal or health reasons.
- Supported participants to take part in iMUSE sessions before and after their Life Stories sessions, to help them relax, start to explore their creativity and be better able to focus and take part in conversations.
- Supported four participants in the creation of five pieces of work, including a short film and a longer audio story to capture the life story of two participants following the loss of their partners; a book and accompanying audio piece exploring a participant’s experience following a late diagnosis of autism; and a family history book telling the life story of a participant and her late husband for their family. Another participant was supported in their own ongoing creative work, producing a graphic novel-style murder-mystery book.
- Supported one participant to join our Hands & Voices choir. He's now one of our core volunteers, supporting learning disabled adults in their music-making and communication skills.
'I feel I have a purpose now.’ PB, Life Stories participant
'There must be thousands of people like me on their own in their homes, thousands.’ PC, Life Stories participant