Our solution to the problem of older adult isolation is to start real conversations and build real community through the written and spoken word. We train volunteers and professionals to run weekly group-based storytelling sessions for older adults at diverse sites around the country; we share older adults’ stories via social media, newsletters and community events; we educate the public about the health risks of older adult isolation and what they can do in their daily lives to engage with older adults more meaningfully.
Storytelling groups for older adults
Working on our front lines are local volunteers who facilitate storytelling groups at diverse sites across the country. Our storytelling model and its outcomes are endorsed by AARP at both the national and state levels, published in professional psychology and social work journals, and have been presented at major national and international conferences. Every Best Day group is a unique community run by a dedicated local team, but all our groups share a sense of genuine human connection described affectionately by participants as “family.”
A closer look at our storytelling sessions…
Every group gathers around a table for an hour a week. Older adults handwrite then read their stories out loud, as volunteers and visitors listen. We create a supportive environment for older adults to express whatever is on their mind – from past experiences to present thoughts to future hopes and worries – and encourages younger people to pause in their busy lives to listen. Each group starts with an average of 4 volunteers and 10 older adult participants – the roster grows at the average rate of 2 more volunteers and 5 more participants every 8 weeks. Weekly attendance at a successful group is 15-20 participants with 2 or more volunteers facilitating and other volunteers working behind the scenes. Our original group began with our founder and 4 older adults on the first day and now has a roster of over two hundred participants. Our storytelling group model has been proven to flourish at 13 pilot sites nationwide; participant transformations are consistent across very different neighborhoods in PA, NJ, WA, OR, IL.
Outreach and educational programs for younger generations
Outreach to younger people is as important to us as outreach to older adult participants. We strengthen our community of listeners and storytellers by sharing our participants’ stories and transformations through social media and inspirational newsletters. Our digital outreach platforms include: our local blogs, core social media pages, and monthly newsletters, breaking down generation gaps and physical boundaries. We complement this fluid intergenerational dialogue with high-impact, inspirational community events throughout the year, to celebrate our groups’ achievements, honor exemplary volunteers and supervisors, and engage participants’ families and local communities. In addition, our founder leads workshops and speaks at conferences regularly to provide training to professionals and the general public on how to start conversations and deepen relationships with older adults, and how to start and sustain successful storytelling groups.