Many older adults suffer from physical or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or loneliness. Aging can also be accompanied by a decrease in autonomy and a perceived loss of identity.
How can we find meaning in life and leave a trace of our passage? It has been repeatedly shown that artistic and social activities help break isolation and improve the well-being and quality of life of older adults, including those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.(1; 2) For example, reminiscing about pleasant memories or writing an autobiographical story can be assertive, resilient in the face of life's obstacles, stimulate memory and improve mood. Some people prefer to write their memoirs in the traditional way, but today's multimedia technologies make it possible to produce digital life stories by combining images, video, music and narration.
Does the ability to tell one's story in a digital format improve the well-being of older adults?
What the research tells us
Two recent systematic reviews examined the creation of digital stories and their effects on the physical, psychological, or social health of older adults.(3; 4) Depending on one's digital fluency and skills, digital stories were either produced entirely by participants or co-created with researchers, caregivers, and family members.
Results were grouped into five categories:
1. Effects on mood: Results showed that the digital storytelling activities promoted a sense of confidence, accomplishment, autonomy, self-esteem, pride, enthusiasm, pleasure, and satisfaction, while decreasing anxiety, depression, and emotional distress.
2. Effects on memory: Through reflection and discussion about the past, digital storytelling projects stimulate and awaken autobiographical memories.
3. Effects on relationship quality: The simple act of discussing life events allows older adults, including those with dementia, to increase interactions and opportunities to communicate with those around them and their caregivers. Digital storytelling can also be used to counter ageism and improve care by allowing healthcare and social care professionals to learn more about their clients.
4. Effects on social connectivity: The interactions required with others involved in the creation and production of the digital stories promoted social engagement and the development of meaningful intergenerational connections.
5. Other effects: Research reveal that producing a digital autobiography is associated with improvements in participants' general well-being, quality of life, sense of self and identity, as well as intellectual abilities and digital literacy.
There's no need to surround yourself with a team of videographers and researchers, or to spend an astronomical amount of money to make a video and share it with those around you. It's possible to easily create digital stories with a smartphone or tablet, thanks to freely available photo and video software. If you don't know how to do this, but are interested in such project, ask your family members to help you. There may be workshops available at your public library and community centre to learn how to write your biography and develop your digital skills.
Tell your story. We want to hear it.