Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Generations of Us: An Intergenerational Storytelling Project

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we’ll feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In part 21 of our series, we feature Generations of Us, an intergenerational storytelling project in Chicago, IL.

Generations of Us: An Intergenerational Storytelling Project on Chicago’s South Side connected young and older adults living on Chicago’s South Side to share their personal experiences through oral history interviews.

The project aimed to use the power of storytelling to promote intergenerational reconciliation and learning between young and older adults living in communities impacted by poverty, violence, and the criminal justice system.  

The project rested on the idea that intergenerational dialogue will promote peace by creating understanding and stronger networks within the community.

Through a partnership with the South Side Help Center in Chicago's Roseland community and the Atlas Senior Center in the South Chicago neighborhood, the young and older adults participated in interactive workshops focusing on the power of storytelling to hear firsthand accounts of history, share life experiences and perspectives, combat ageism, build relationships, and promote intergenerational dialogue.

The project took place during the month of August 2014 and included 8 workshops. It began with a one-day workshop that introduced oral history and including an interactive aging simulation with the young people at the South Side Help Center.

The remaining workshops took place at the Atlas Senior Center, which allowed the young adults to visit the Senior Center each day.

The curriculum followed the 6-step process of Oral History: plan, prepare, exchange, preserve, present, and reflect.

To ensure that the participants would be able to interact as much as possible, workshops incorporated intergenerational activities, icebreakers, games, practice interviews, and lessons on the process of oral history each day.

On average, 25 participants attended each day, and we typically had a ratio of one older adult to two young adults. In total,  approximately 50 participants attended and recorded 10 full-length oral history interviews.

The last day of the workshop was a presentation and celebration that was open to the public, which included playing short selections from the interviews, participants sharing their personal reflections, playing BINGO, and eating delicious food!

Each participant received a t-shirt and a CD with their audio recording and approximately 50 people were in attendance for the celebration! Due to the success of this project, future collaborations between the South Side Help Center and the Atlas Senior Center are in the process of being discussed.

For more information about this project, please take a look at the Generations of Us blog and/or contact Kelli Bosak directly at kbosak@uchicago.edu.

Kelli Bosak is a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.  

This project was made possibly by a grant from the Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace through the International House of Chicago.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter! Share the inspiration.

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