The Good Life – Getting Young and Old Together

A good friend of mine has, for several years, been involved in teaching storytelling skills to elementary-school-aged children. She comes into classrooms and tells them funny or spooky folk tales and fairy tales from a variety of cultures around the world. Because she has a flair for the dramatic, and a lovely speaking voice, the children are enthralled by her storytelling. She then encourages them to create their own stories, collaboratively as a group, and tell them.

More recently, she has been conducting storytelling and creative-writing workshops for senior citizens. She does this at community centres and at senior citizen residences. This gives the seniors she works with an opportunity to develop and share stories from the rich experiences of their lives. Although I have not had an opportunity to sit in on one of these sessions, she tells me that there have been several times that their stories have been so profound that they have sent shivers up her spine, or so heart-wrenching that she has been in tears.

Her latest project is to develop a joint storytelling experience involving both children and elders. She feels that both groups would benefit from the unique and contrasting forms of energy and experience that each has to offer.

I have often wondered about the way that our society has a tendency of isolating and segregating people by age. It is a strange phenomenon in the Western world that 10-year-olds are mostly in the company of 10-year-olds, teenagers are mostly with teenagers, middle-aged people hang out with other middle-aged people, and senior citizens are shunted off to the margins of society. It seems to me that when this happens, we lose so much of the potential for inter-generational sharing of wisdom and resources. Surely it is important to realize and remember that young children are not just unformed adults. They are fully formed, vibrant entities, complete with a world view that needs to be expressed and heeded by those older than they are. By the same token, senior citizens are not over-the-hill adults. They are conduits of experience, filled with ideas and knowledge that they could not possibly have possessed when they were younger.

By getting young and old together, under the right circumstances, who knows what sorts of magic and synergy might be created, what benefits might come about for all involved. More power to my friend, I say.

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