The art of storytelling has long been a respected skill and important tradition in many cultures around the world. The word of mouth has passed on history and imagination for thousands of years acting as somewhat of a logbook of society’s knowledge and wisdom. As communities continue through time, generations have used storytelling to teach and entertain, and without maybe knowing it - increasing happiness and mood levels for all involved in the exercise.
When we look at the realities of ageing it’s somewhat bittersweet that what creates such enjoyment and peace of mind for our elderly is often something they lose with time - memories. Research shows that via many mediums like music, photos, conversation and storytelling, we can help those with failing recollections and provide a small window into clearer recall and comforting times. This type of stimulus accesses responsive areas of the brain when the information received is more emotional than factual and stories can illicit a multi-sensory brain response, reaffirming personal identity and social connectedness.
Storytelling can improve overall resilience and have positive impacts on your loved one’s mental, psychological and emotional well-being. Research has found that engaging in storytelling has powerful cognitive effects and can lead to higher mental stimulation, improved memory, deeper social connections and increased activeness in older adults.
Longevity studies and focus groups have demonstrated how in particular, the act of connecting with others in a meaningful way through both telling and experiencing stories can mean that an elderly person is less likely to suffer from depression. Expressing themselves through social and basic needs communication, by accessing long-term memories, can create a positive mood, sense of confidence and a more adapted self in front of this disease. Levels of general happiness are higher as participants in life story research also report higher levels of life satisfaction and greater overall satisfaction with the care they receive.
In the wider environment, encouraging storytelling within elderly care communities can become a point of integration creating a natural connection and investment of staff into your loved one’s personality and history. Practical benefits of this mean that it can help carers when there is a need to sooth or calm an agitated older person during times of stress or confusion, assisted greatly by the fact there has been a connection made with the individual. Overall by way of sharing these stories and connecting over background and anecdotes there is a level of trust built between the older person and the caregiver, plus the family, the institution and the surrounding community. It bridges a gap in understanding and empathy which at its very core, is a wholesome and human element we should always be prioritising in the caregiving space.
When we think of storytelling, a memory of some sort will spring to mind for most of us. Memories of our own grandparents, parents, siblings, time spent with family, teachers, mentors, role models, historic figures and more that have enthralled and inspired us since we were small. Tapping into this age-old tradition holds importance, so whether or not your loved one is precise on the details it is the exercise, experience and engagement that matters. Always encourage that creativity so that their stories can bring a little magic and comfort into their day.
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