The creative project, Life Stories Project, that pairs teenagers with seniors is reducing social isolation and encouraging understanding across a decades-wide age divide.
Intergenerational connections are getting more difficult in Western cultures, where seniors live independently or are segregated in retirement communities and teenagers have few interactions with seniors.
U.K. nonprofit Bridging Ages has developed the Life Stories Project, in which teenagers interview seniors about their lives and then write books based on the interviews. The project has been so successful that Bridging Ages moved it to an online platform, so people worldwide can participate. Life Stories’ online toolbox includes bespoke software that enables participants to upload their story and have it sent to be professionally printed and bound.
While the books serve as a record of elders’ lives, the connections between youth and older participants are the real purpose of the project, giving a structure that makes young people more likely to interact with seniors outside their social circle. “Through the project, each becomes a part of the other’s life story. The bonds built between the generations, in turn, strengthen their communities,” said director Hannah Fincham.
Intergenerational bonds can reduce stigma, which is one cause of social isolation. The National Centre for the Protection of Elder People in the U.K. says “negative perceptions of older people can result in social exclusion, isolation and ultimately the abuse of older people.”