Stories bring connection

Galleon Gardens Lifestyle Co-ordinator Gwen Bonney, resident and Life Story biographer Doreen McDonald and Dr Xanthe Golenko.

Aged care residents have told attendees at Bolton Clarke Research Institute’s first SHARE webinar event that participating in life story work has transformed their lives.

The SHARE series draws from the perspectives of researchers, residents and students in Bolton Clarke’s award-winning Storytelling program. The program began with the pilot Life Stories project, which produced 20 books and six posters co-created with residents. It has expanded to include Intergenerational Digital Storytelling and Storytelling in Residential Aged Care, with a therapeutic framework and training modules developed and 32 university students currently involved across nine care homes.

“Stories are central to our human connection, communication and cognition – they enable us to learn, celebrate, heal and remember,” Bolton Clarke Research Fellow Dr Xanthe Golenko said. “Storytelling can be used as an intervention across settings, and its transformative nature means both the process and the output have benefits for emotional and mental wellbeing, interpersonal relationships and preserving personal identity.

“The power of its emotional impact is in providing voice to people who may be unheard – it’s also really great when you are bringing younger people in, to transfer that knowledge.”

Bolton Clarke Galleon Gardens resident and Life Story biographer Doreen McDonald said developing her book had “showed me I am an emotional person”.

“It’s made a new life for me really, remembering some of the things and thinking ‘Did I do that?’” she said. “I had no children, and my family are at the other end of Australia, but it gave me a reason to keep going, to meet other people and to listen to what other people had to say. It’s only when you listen and hear what they say that you think ‘I remember that!’

Galleon Gardens lifestyle co-ordinator Gwen Bonney said university students trained to support the project had spent hundreds of hours listening to and working with residents.

“At first the students were shy but now they love the residents, they know their stories and are anxious to begin their next stories and to come back as volunteers,” Gwen said. “They have blossomed and developed a lot of friendships with residents and staff.”

The second SHARE webinar, Connecting People Through storytelling: The power of groupwork was held on Friday, 18 November from 10am with more planned.

“The webinar will cover different topics including group story circle work,” Dr Golenko said. “We’ll be inviting local and national experts to share insights from their work.”

Later sessions in the series will focus on digital storytelling and intergenerational storytelling.

Registration is free at

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