The ‘My Story Matters’ program aims to improve the mental health and well being of older people with a mental health condition through the implementation of a life review based program utilising digital storytelling. This approach reports a 50% reduction in the incidence of depression for persons 75 years and older. The implementation of this program considered the following elements:
- Community Involvement
- Selection Criteria
- Context of meetings
- Volunteer trainings
There was extensive consultation throughout the implementation of this program with the digital storytelling centre at the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, local historians, community groups, as well as mental health and other aged care specialists.
Staff and volunteers noted the following benefits for participating residents: improved sleep; increased engagement with staff and other residents; a reduction in medication use; a reinforcement of past memories relating to self, family members and significant others; a stronger sense of family, community and ‘belonging’; enhanced and maintained cognitive functioning.
Not only this, older people have returned to their creative art long forgotten. For example, George, a 93 year old man, composed a musical score for a song he wrote for his dyeing wife whilst grieving for her. MSM gave George the platform in which to channel his dormant creativity and express his feelings. (This DVD would be shown during the presentation).
These benefits indicate a reduction in depressive symptoms in this group of residents. The involvement of the family members / volunteer friends has also built a support network amongst the residents participating in ‘My Story Matters’. This program captures glimpses of older peoples’ past & present. Not only sharing them with family, friends & community, it reaches out towards ‘grand & great-grand children’ through ‘modern technology’ – a critical digital humanities potential.
Human everyday experiences are seen as simple, yet when a person’s life event is merged with digital storytelling it becomes a powerful social media. ‘My Story Matters’ captures a vulnerable thread of humanity we all share and links young and old, our past memories and future dreams.
‘My Story Matters’ won the 2009 Positive Living in Aged Care award.
- Kate Margaret Oleary, Illawarra Retirement Trust, Australia