Sometimes older persons, particularly those in residential aged care, can feel disengaged from the wider community. This can lead to issues around mental health and emotional wellbeing.
For younger people, particularly adolescents, there can be a lack of empathy for elderly members of our community. In some cases, young people have very limited exposure to older persons.
Bringing these two segments of the community together through an innovative community service project has benefited both groups.
From August to October 2018, Bookform ran two pilot ‘Write of Passage’ projects with Arcare Aged Care at Oatlands and Glenhaven, with The King’s School and Tangara Girls School, in Sydney. Twenty-three students were paired with 23 residents and the students interviewed their resident once a week for an hour over a term of 10 weeks.
Bookform technology is an online tool to scaffold students to ‘interview’ an aged resident about their life, knowledge and experiences, and collate the stories, with photos, into a printable digital book. The resident’s own family and friends can also contribute stories and photos directly into the book.
Books can be shared online or presented by students to residents at a presentation ceremony, where kids feel proud and residents feel valued, and the wider community can participate. Books can be sold to resident’s families as well.
If creating a whole book per person is not achievable, then students can help a resident contribute a chapter to a book. The Favourite Food Book has been popular, where residents contribute their favourite recipe and the stories and photos demonstrating why that food is special.
The residents loved the socialisation and stimulation of meeting young students from their community. Often the older person had either gone to that school or knew some history or stories they could share with the student and that was really fun for everyone. They developed a close bond with their student over the 10 week term project and before and after surveys showed everyone involved was much happier and engaged during ansd after this project.
The schools invited the aged residents to attend sports or events whenever they wanted. The residents said they felt valuable sharing their life stories, but also they learnt a lot from the young people too, about life at school now-a-days, which was very interesting for them, as so much has changed.
The Bookform technology allowed students to achieve a polished product, which they were proud to gift to their new friend. Student’s families were proud of their child’s achievements and the social good achieved.
Most families contributed to their loved one’s book and they then bought multiple copies of the book too. There were lots of tears and laughter at the presentation ceremonies, attended by residents’ extended families as well as students’ families.
Largely a student project, aged care staff did not need to do much extra work, other than arranging meetings. Learning more about the lives of the residents helped them draw closer in relationship with those residents.
With more demand for Write of Passage project, Bookform is expanding into other residential aged care facilities and schools throughout Australia.