Would you like to engage the older adults you work with more meaningfully? Whether you are a social worker, activity coordinator, personal care aide, or administrative staff member, learning the art of storytelling can enrich and deepen interaction. Led by The Best Day of My Life So Far founder, Benita Cooper, this professional development program will provide you with valuable knowledge, handy tools and practical exercises that you can immediately put to use. One can often observe health benefits in three or four weeks; communication between you and the older adults will begin to improve with just one or two conversations.
“This inspired program provides a safe environment for older adults to tell their stories, and the benefits are myriad.” – Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation
“The Best Day of My Life So Far experience incorporates many important factors that have been shown to promote positive cognitive, psychological and health outcomes, including social interaction, cognitive activity and emotional expression.” – Dr. Tania Giovannetti, Associate Professor of Neurology, Drexel University and Associate Professor of Psychology, Temple University
“I have never seen Benita without a smile on her face; she is truly inspiring and is able to move people beyond their expectations.” – Diane Menio, Executive Director, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly
“I have been in the business of serving the elderly for 29 years – your program is one of the very few who is able to think outside the box in serving the elderly.” – Catherine Wu, Health Insurance Specialist, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
This professional program is offered by LIFE-NWPA at no cost to all LIFE-NWPA staff, to optimize staff performance and communication with members and their families. Staff members who attend this program are invited to contribute to “The Stories of Erie” Story Collection, and to join The Best Day of My Life So Far’s Council of Intergenerational Leadership – a national professional network recognizing professional excellence in older adult care. The Living Independence for the Elderly – Northwestern Pennsylvania (LIFE-NWPA) model, is also known nationally as PACE (The Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly).
Webinar recordings and other program materials are available in our Toolbox.
About the Instructor
Harvard-trained Benita Cooper has pioneered an award-winning, research-backed and internationally recognized method to improve older adult health by fostering intergenerational communication and reducing isolation. Inspired by her grandmother’s friendship and stories, Benita first developed this method with a small storytelling group in Philadelphia in 2009 (which began with 4 members and has grown to over 300 members and visitors) and a blog (which received over 40,000 views within the first 3 years). Benita spent the next few years training professional supervisors and volunteers in 5 states and taking her model to 13 pilot sites, proving its regional and national scalability. In 2017, she launched a webinar series and training program in order to share her method with hundreds more professionals, and give them the tools and steps to start their own local groups nationwide. In a recent survey, 100% of the supervisors and volunteers implementing the model reported that it was Very High Quality or High Quality. Benita’s work has been featured on TV and radio programs such as ABC News and eCareDiary’s “Empowering Family Caregivers,” in newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in books such as “The New Senior Woman.” Research and scientific backing of the work have been presented at conferences and journals such as American Society on Aging’s National Conference, Online News Association’s Storytelling Digital Summit, Australian Association of Gerontology’s National Conference, and Professional Journal of Activities, Adaptation, and Aging. A conference chair has described Benita’s presentation style as “confident, poised, and enthusiastic,” adding that she “relates so well to both young and older audiences.” In a special segment featuring her work, ABC reporters introduced Benita with these words: “We often hear that one person can make a difference. Today we introduce you to one such person.” Hear Benita’s personal story here.
About the Program
This training program gives professionals working with older adults the tools and steps to have more meaningful conversations with older adults, start an intergenerational storytelling group, or both. The Best Day of My Life So Far’s innovative use of storytelling to reduce older adult isolation – in particular, its signature storytelling group model – is backed by internationally published research, endorsed by AARP, founded in Philadelphia, and implemented nationwide. 11 million, or 28%, of older Americans are at risk for isolation. Isolation is the cause of many physical and mental health issues, from depression, diabetes, lung disease, impaired immune system to increased cognitive decline. Additionally, isolated older adults face a 26% higher chance of early death. Learn more about Best Day’s mission, impact and methods here.
Training and Recognition Program Structure
STEP I: WEBINARS – Storytelling the Best Day Way: Wed May 24 + May 31
Level 1. May 24 10am-11:30am
“How to Have More Meaningful Conversations with Older Adults”
Included Resources: Conversation Starter Toolkit
Level 2. May 31 10am-11:30am
“How to Start an Intergenerational Storytelling Group”
Included Resources: Group Starter Toolkit
STEP II: FIELDWORK – The Stories of Erie: June 1-July 21 Submissions + Sept Showcase
Story Collection Contest, details will be given at the webinars. The timing, location and level of commitment of the fieldwork is completely flexible, and can be easily integrated into any already established caregiving routines. Submitted stories will be considered for “The Stories of Erie”, a permanent featured collection in Best Day’s Digital Story Library.
Included Resources: Digital Story Tracker and Story Collection Creator
STEP III: PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION – Council of Intergenerational Leadership: August Announcement
Acceptance into the national merit-based network based on the quality and quantity of story submissions and relationships with older adult storytellers. Honorees will be announced in Best Day’s nationally distributed newsletter and social media platforms, and given an exclusive preview of Best Day’s Story Library.
STEP IV: PUBLIC SHOWCASE – Press Reception, Storytelling Event, Cocktail Hour: Fri Sept 22
Public Storytelling Event and Inauguration of Council Members. Save the date, spread the word, and stay tuned for details!
By attending this program, you will gain skillsets that will allow you to deliver the following benefits to older adults and community members. In addition, you will earn professional recognition regionally and nationally, both within and beyond LIFE-NWPA’s and Best Day’s communities. You will also develop tangible and deeply meaningful ways of engaging LIFE participants’ family members, and be able to present them with stories from participants’ lives to honor their legacies.
Benefits for older adult participants:
- Decreased social and technological isolation
- Decreased symptoms of depression
- Decreased symptoms of anxiety
- Increased compliance with medical regimens
- Increased health-promoting behaviors such as diet and exercise
- Increased participation in additional social activities
- Increased appreciation for technology and social media
- Improved communication with family members and caregivers
Additional benefits for older adult participants and intergenerational community members:
- Improved communication with other generations
- Increased involvement in the local community
- Improved communication with people from other cultural and economical backgrounds
- Increased sense of freedom to make choices and decisions
- Increased sense of purpose, enrichment and fulfillment
- Increased appreciation for history
- Improved literacy and language skills
- Improved understanding of self and increased sense of self-worth
- Improved quality of life