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Life story work builds connections at Fernhill

Storytelling helping inspire workforce of the future

Local University students and Bolton Clarke Fernhill residents have created new connections working together to create posters of residents’ memories as part of Bolton Clarke’s Life Stories Program.

The program, which began through the work of Bolton Clarke Research Institute Research Fellow Dr Xanthe Golenko in 2020, uses life story reminiscence work to improve wellbeing, reduce loneliness and increase connection for residents and home care clients.

It includes therapeutically informed activities like weekly small group story circles, working with local team members and University students to support residents in a guided or prompted reminiscence.

Dr Golenko said the work helped residents connect with their memories and identity and build closer relationships across generations, while helping carers better understand people’s individual interests and care needs.

Program Manager Anna Fowke said story circles influenced by indigenous yarning circle practise created an intentional gathering place for people to have meaningful conversations and become more connected to each other.

“This program is a joy for all who participate. We are relational beings and anything that helps us hear each other’s stories can only improve our experience of the world,” she said.

QUT and USC Undergraduate students Gugu, Peter and Caitlin, who completed the project while on placement, said taking part had changed the way they relate to older people in the community and in their work.

“It’s incredible to listen to their stories, they have all seen so much change,” Gugu said.

“It has changed the way I interact with older people when I am out in the community, I’m much more likely to say hello and have a conversation.”

“I feel like I belong here – it will be sad to leave. I really enjoyed working in the memory unit, I just love working with the residents. This is something I am going to keep learning about and hopefully end up working in,” Peter added.

“There’s a lot of conversation at University and on placement about how to work with people living with Dementia but my biggest learning is that if you just meet as two human beings its beautiful.”

“And seeing the look on the residents faces as they held their posters for the first time was so amazing, their faces just lit up!” Caitlin concluded.