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Why you should encourage your residents to tell their stories this World Book Day?

World Book Day returns at the start of March to celebrate all things literary. Books have been written on every topic under the sun. Information-sharing and storytelling through the written word bring people together by providing common interests and satisfying a quest for knowledge. This year World Book Day takes place on Thursday 7 March. Schoolchildren and adults across the UK and beyond will be celebrating in a number of ways, including dressing up as literary characters, sharing favourite books and discovering new stories to get stuck into.

Storytelling is a practice that goes back to the earliest days of humankind. Even before the written word evolved, people told stories and shared information through other means. Stories were told orally and pictures and symbols drawn on stones and earth. People bonded over discussing shared experiences and learned from other people’s fortunes and mishaps, passed down to them via stories. This form of sharing and bonding remains just as powerful today. People have a need to be valued and remembered for what they have done and stood for in their lives, which generally gets stronger as we age.

The benefits of storytelling in your care home

Encouraging older and vulnerable people to tell their stories if they wish to offers a range of benefits. It can bring friends, family members and carers closer to the person, by establishing a stronger sense of connectivity. It reminds everyone that the person receiving care is, first and foremost, a person with a unique history, personality and set of morals, beliefs and values. It moves other people’s perceptions about them beyond their current health condition, set of medical diagnoses and care needs. It helps caregivers provide a more personalised, ‘human’ level of care, based on what they learn about the person who is telling their story.

Less stress, greater health

The act of storytelling can benefit the person in a great many ways too. It has been shown that telling a story about yourself can lower stress, increase resilience and have a positive effect on emotional and mental wellbeing. Recalling events from the past helps exercise the brain too and supports work done on improving the memory. If someone recalls a hobby they once enjoyed, or a book they used to read, this can lead to a return to once-favoured activities and pastimes. This, in turn, adds motivation for someone to be more active and remain interested in the world around them. It can help reduce anxiety and increase confidence and self-esteem.

Preserving memories for future generations

Storytelling is also highly beneficial for the generations following in the person’s footsteps. It can give clarity on how family traditions came about and why certain events took place. Often, younger generations can glean a great deal of wisdom and insight from older people’s stories. They can learn what it was like following a certain trade or living in a certain country, for example. They can spot inspirational patterns to follow – and mistakes that they can try and avoid themselves. The process can also help younger people understand their own place in a family, community or society in general. It can even resolve long-held family disputes and clear up misunderstandings that have got in the way of relationships for years.

Storytelling in action

Although there is a saying that everyone has got a book inside them, the storytelling process doesn’t need to end up with a fully formed novel or pages of typed pr handwritten notes. A great place to start, if the idea of telling a life story is daunting, is to write short notes and attach them to cherished items. This can help future generations understand the significance and provenance of what will hopefully become important family heirlooms.

Many people will find a notebook or computer useful for capturing their tales in writing. Other means of storytelling can include relating experiences on a Dictaphone to either be kept as an oral history or typed up afterwards. Visually creative people might prefer making a photo album, memory box or scrap book. Another creative outlet is starting a blog or a video diary. These can be shared online to a wider audience, or kept for personal consumption only.

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