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My Story Series: Sawtell Catholic Care’s “Holding the Story” Project

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All of us hold a story –our own ‘story of self’- within us. Our story of self weaves the identity that we wear in the world. But what happens when age and illness unravel the identity, and there is no-one to bear witness to our story of self? We become invisible, voiceless and isolated, leading to loneliness, depression, and a decline in health which often leads to medical intervention. 

 Research tells us that creative ageing/arts in health programs like ‘Holding the Story’ are a potential alternative to this scenario, fostering joy and wellbeing, as well as challenging the myths and stereotypes around older people and people living with dementia. 

Why storytelling? 

Because everyone has a story.
Because stories create connections.
Because connections create communities. 

  

Quite simply, our ‘Holding the Story’ program harnesses the magic and power of Storytelling as a co-creative journey to produce positive therapeutic and social outcomes. 

We started with a ‘storytelling club’. The enthusiastic response to this activity led to our pilot digital storytelling project. The trial involved four participants- three of whom were living with or had been touched by dementia in some way- being partnered with volunteers from the community as support and trained to create a digital story that was meaningful for them. 

We showed the 2016 stories at a “Red Carpet” event, inviting family, friends, fellow residents and care staff. The positive feedback was astounding, and it was then that we started to realise we were onto something quite special. 

Holding the Story 2017 built on the experience of the pilot project, refining the processes of making the stories, as well as researching how to make it possible for the process to work with people who are living with more advanced dementias. In 2018, the scope of the project also widened. 2020 will therefore see further research and community partnerships flourish around the project, investigating the any and varied benefits of the stories such as community building to address social isolation, how viewing may change the culture of care, and how the stories may be used therapeutically as a non-medical intervention to engage with people living with dementia and enhance their quality of life. 

  

“Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls”.
Melody Beattie 

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