In 2014, Bridging Ages ran the first Life Stories Project in Sussex, UK. It was such a success we knew it had to grow. A £50,000 National Lottery Fund and Sussex Community Foundation grant helped us to develop the Life Stories Toolkit.
Woven throughout the Life Story of every older person are the threads of our wider cultural, political and historical story. This is an important narrative for a young person to hear, but sadly these days young and old rarely get together.
Many families no longer live near grandparents. Young people have fewer opportunities to meet with an older person and negative ageist attitudes can develop. These can be harmful to our society that is rapidly aging.
More and more older people live in retirement flats or care homes and are not integrated into the wider community. This can be lonely.
The Life Stories Project builds respect, trust and empathy between generations – and this can make our communities stronger.
A Life Stories book is an important family document for future generations. Families can order more copies and usually do! However, the real value of the project lies in the process of making the books. The visits give support to older people who may be lonely. The conversations stimulate reflection on a life lived and honour that life.
Older participants tell us that they get satisfaction from telling their young partner about the way things used to be and what they’ve learned over their lives. Their life stories are a legacy for following generations. Young people get an opportunity to hear a first hand account of history and learn from previous generations. They say, “This taught me better than history books.” There are many reports about our ageing population and the stresses this will place on the younger generation. It is vital for young people to have positive associations with the old. Teen participants are often surprised to realise that they have negative ageist attitudes about older people. The most common thing we hear is, “This project made me see that old people were young once too.” For many teens this project is their first volunteer activity. Studies have shown that this could lead to more volunteering in the future.