Ever since cavemen told tales of the day’s hunt around the fire, we have been telling–and listening–to stories. But there is growing evidence that stories are not merely entertainment. Stories can actually help us connect to our own identities–even as dementia threatens to close the curtain.
Stories can be told in a number of ways: books, songs, movies, plays, television, and word-of-mouth are just a few. And whether it’s House of Cards or Harry Potter, today we have multitudes of stories at our fingertips. We enjoy these stories because they transport us, and when we return to reality we feel that we do so with a broader perspective. Roger Ebert once said:
“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”
And while stories do grant us the ability to see the world through different lenses, they inevitably relate to our own personal story–the one that plays out day by day. It’s only when we reflect on our lives that we see how narrative elements like conflict, rising action, characters, and themes enrich our stories with meaning. The stories of Senior Lifestyle residents are often shared here at The Un-Retired, where you can read stories of valor, dedication, revolution, and love.
“Aging by the Book,” a recent broadcast of Ideas with Paul Kennedy, explores the positive power that stories have on us as we age. Whether stories are used as a starting point for discussion in reading groups or as a tool to tap into our personal histories through the fog of dementia, the program presents very promising evidence for what’s often called narrative gerontology or narrative care.
In Senior Lifestyle Memory Care communities, caregivers are indeed custodians of each resident’s unique story. If you have an aging loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, we encourage you and your caregiver to use the power of story help him or her keep the link to their own identity strong.