Posted Monday, Jun 5th, 2017

Digital Story Telling Program

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Stories to share: Seniors at Thornebridge Gardens retirement residence, including, from left, Dorothy Furness, Fenny Stolp and Pat Kain, are taking part in a digital storytelling program offered in cooperation with Simon Fraser University.

Thornebridge Gardens is giving residents a chance to leave a lasting legacy for their families and to build bonds with their peers.

Since 2015, the local retirement residence has partnered with Simon Fraser University on several sessions of a digital storytelling program. Nearly 20 seniors aged 80 and up have taken part in the program, and another session will get underway in the fall.

“They find it very meaningful,” said Shreya Qazi, life enrichment manager with Verve Senior Living. “They connect with each other. It gives them an opportunity to grow. It gives them something that they will pass to their grandkids and great grandkids and say, ‘Hey, here is my story on a USB. Maybe someday you would like to know what the legacy was in the family.’”

During the process of story development, residents are encouraged not only to tell the story but to reflect on how it impacted them, using images, historical records, etc. “It grants them an opportunity to reflect on and share their life experiences with their peers,” Qazi said. “It’s like a legacy.”

Participants in the 10-week program work with officials from Simon Fraser University and their peers to develop their stories.

“It really enhances their relationships because they help them,” Qazi said about program participants. “If somebody needs to scan something, if somebody needs a picture of something. They will help each other.”

The seniors’ stories are on topics as varied as serving in war or having a break-in at their home. While some stories leave listeners with goosebumps, many are tinged with humour.

“One woman was telling a story about how she had so many kids,” Qazi said. “She said, ‘and then we figured out how we were having them and we stopped it.’”

When Thornebridge Gardens learned of the elders’ digital storytelling research project at Simon Fraser University, it was eager to get involved. Qazi said SFU does “an amazingly good job” in working with the seniors.

“The SFU part is the technology side of it,” Qazi said. “The residents’ part is their stories in their own voices. They read the stories. When it comes on the screen, it’s them talking about their life story or a part of their life.”

While the seniors are pretty savvy about technology, the crew from SFU help them put pictures to the music and stories, edit the content to emphasize certain words – things that help make a good movie. At the end of each 10-week program, Thornebridge Gardens holds a premiere where the residents can share their digital stories.

“On the premiere night, it’s their friends, it’s their stories,” Qazi said. “Families are here, friends are here, people in the community are here. They are all like ‘Wow.’”

Qazi said the digital story telling program nurtures residents’ body, mind and spirit. “They rave about it,” she said. “The feel their self-esteem shoot up so much.” Qazi said the project is a perfect fit for New Westminster, which is a place that supports its heritage.

“It’s really great to see the residents helping to build unity between the generations and strengthen the heritage,” she said. “That’s what New West is all about.”

© 2017 New West Record

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