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Sharing Stories, Sharing Life

Published on 18 August 2021 12:49 PM

We have been working with Cambridgeshire County Council Team on a pilot project called Sharing Stories, Sharing Life.

The project trained volunteers to be Story Listeners, and invited older people to be Story Tellers, sharing life stories with the Story Listener. Our Sharing Time Organiser in Cambridge, Helen Lancaster, took part in the training to take the role as a Story Listener and one of our Service Users became her Story Teller. Over the course of 6 weeks, Helen regularly phoned or met with her Story Teller, and he spent time talking about his experiences in life. We also facilitated two more volunteers and service users to take part in the pilot project. More about the project is in the below statement from the Think Communities Team at Cambridgeshire County Council. We will be using the resources to develop and support our volunteers and service users in our Sharing Time Service.

The County Council has produced two excellent short videos about the Sharing Stories, Sharing Life project - here Helen, Fred and Edith talk about how much they enjoyed the project. The first video is 5 minutes long and explains a bit about the project interviewing Helen, Fred and Edith.

The second video (9.40 minutes) is heart-warming and heart-breaking, as Fred and Edith share more bits of their stories. Helen gives an insight into the enormous benefits Sharing Stories, Sharing Life has, for Teller, Listener and for all of us – capturing history, real life, real emotions – sadness, joy and laughter. It’s fascinating to talk to people and satisfying to re-light the desire to participate again in old hobbies and interests.

"It has been a pleasure to take part in this Sharing Stories, Sharing Life project. Anything that can help to reduce isolation and loneliness is extremely valuable as we know the huge detrimental impact this can have upon a person's health and well-being. Sharing Stories has been fun and rewarding. Myself and my Story Teller have really enjoyed it and I've learnt a lot. My Story Teller has also been inspired to start listening to more music and singing again, something he enjoyed so much in the past." Helen Lancaster, Sharing Time Organiser, Age UK CAP and Story Listener.

Information provided by Cambridgeshire County Council:

Cambridgeshire County Council Team have been working with partner organisations from The Netherlands, Austria and Luxemburg on a 3-year Erasmus+ project called Sharing Stories, Sharing Life. The project aims to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older people by encouraging them to share their life stories with trained volunteer Story Listeners.

Thirty-eight people took part in a 3-month pilot in the UK to test out the Sharing Stories training, methods and toolbox developed by the Erasmus+ team (website, online portal and manuals). Older story tellers, (including residents in care homes and supported housing schemes), were matched with volunteer listeners who facilitated story telling sessions. These sessions encouraged the older people (Story Tellers) to reminisce about their past and share their stories. The volunteers were also trained to identify elements in the life stories that could inspire the Story Teller to rediscover interests and passions and reconnect with their communities.

Older Story Tellers greatly benefitted from taking part in the pilot. They enjoyed reflecting on their lives and experiences, built new relationships with the volunteer listeners, and felt less lonely, some loved their stories being documented for them to pass onto their families and to future generations.

Helen Lancaster, Sharing Time Organiser at Age UK CAP has been a key partner during this pilot and supported county council officers with recruiting Sharing Time volunteers and service users to take part in the pilot.

“It’s been amazing to work with Helen. She helped us recruit participants for the pilot and took part as Story Listener herself. Her feedback and recommendations for improvements for the project have been very helpful and her professional insight into supporting older people immensely valuable. The feedback received from AGE UK service users who took part in the pilot was very positive highlighting the benefits of sharing life stories and the added value they provide to befriending schemes.” Agnes Toth, Think Communities Team Cambridgeshire County Council

The Erasmus team developed a training package for volunteer Story Listeners and a toolbox of resources to encourage older people to share their stories. The Sharing Stories, Sharing Life approach complements existing befriending and support schemes for older people or can be run as a new standalone project.  The training package and toolbox of resources are available on the Sharing Stories, Sharing Life website. 

Volunteer

If you would like to join our team and become a volunteer for Sharing Time or Telephone Befriending, please contact us for a chat on 01733 554963 or email your interest to us at volunteering@ageukcap.org.uk

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Sharing Stories, Sharing Life

More information and resources on the Story Tree website

Sharing Time Service

Volunteers visit older people at home offering friendship to reduce isolation and loneliness

Telephone Befriending

Linking volunteers to older people to chat on the phone, reducing isolation and loneliness