It is perhaps a well-known fact that storytelling and sharing from one generation to another is good for everyone, young and old. But a new study has put it to the test, and has found that it is especially good for older adults on multiple levels – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
The study focused on writing workshops for older adults living at home and in retirement communities. These workshops were conducted in group settings where adults were prompted to write “life reviews,” a form of memoir and personal writing.
Thirty-nine seniors were randomly assigned to two distinct groups: one group that went through the writing workshop and stopped there, and another group that, after the workshop, spent four weeks meeting with a group of college students studying health sciences. This second part of the survey was called “intergenerational exchange.”
During the initial writing workshop, both groups met for regular sessions for eight weeks. During the sessions, study author Tracy Chippendale, assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, gave the participants writing prompts, tips, and feedback.
After the writing workshop was concluded, the group selected for the “intergenerational exchange” met with a group of college students once a week for 90-minute sessions. At the meetings, the seniors read pieces of their writing to the students and participated in group discussions about their work and their lives.
Using questionnaires and written responses, the researchers gathered information about the seniors before the writing workshop, after the workshop, and after the discussion meetings with the students.
Here’s what they learned: the adults that interacted with students reported an increased sense of purpose, increased happiness, lower symptoms of depression, and greater cognitive function. The group that didn’t meet with college students was essentially unchanged, although some individuals did report lower symptoms of depression and increased happiness from the writing workshop alone.
Those who met with the college students reported an increased desire to learn and share their experiences, and despite generational and cultural differences, nearly all their views of the students they interacted with were positive.
Whether it be through writing “life reviews” or meeting regularly with college students, we believe that connecting with others is vital at every age. Freedom Home Care is always looking for new methods and strategies for our clients to achieve wellness, and we take pride in our investment in personalized and alternative therapy. Visit us today to find out how we can best meet your needs.