Storytelling linking younger and older generations
For some seniors, retirement is truly a new beginning in their lives. Instead of enjoying a slower pace of life, they choose to continue serving the community through volunteer work.
Subvented by The Community Chest of Hong Kong (the Chest), Hans Andersen Club’s Intergenerational Story Adventure (ISA) is a two-year project that promotes intergenerational inclusion by giving seniors an opportunity to interact with young people through storytelling.
Auntie Mei-mei has been an ISA volunteer for four years. “I was worried about my life after retirement, and had given thoughts on how to pass time. When my daughter brought my granddaughter to join an activity at Hans Andersen Club, my daughter saw the ISA volunteer recruitment leaflets and the rest is history.”
At the beginning, the atmosphere was rather quiet as the children saw her as an elder and wouldn’t take the initiative to communicate with her. However, storytelling helped break down the barrier. “Through storytelling, the kids started gaining interest and enjoying the storytelling. Some even raised their hands and asked questions.”
Moreover, when compared with reading a story by themselves alone, storytelling helps children to gain a better understanding of the story. The ISA project includes a component where the volunteer and the children make art and craft after the storytelling session. This enhances the children’s level of participation and helps them to get along better with seniors.
The activity not only benefits the seniors who volunteer but also the children. “Right now, when facing different kids, I have more patience to observe them because every kid is unique. At the same time, they will also take the initiative to care for seniors,” Auntie Mei-mei said.
Auntie Mei-mei said that her approach to children was paternalistic before taking part in ISA,. She changed her mindset after interacting with more children – she would now try to see things from the children’s perspectives, and that led to more conversations and better relationships. On the other hand, she noticed that the children have become more emphatic. They would take initiatives to care for seniors. Inspired by ISA, Auntie Mei-mei first told stories to her granddaughter, and her granddaughter loved it. Now they would even tell stories together to other children!
Supported by the Chest, the ISA project aims to equip energetic retirees with storytelling and communication skills between seniors and children so that they could conduct paired reading and innovative storytelling activities for children in schools and in the community.