Training for Seniors: a Genie’s Experience

This was tough, this was challenging. It had nearly happened twice before! Yes. So how do you recruit at least eight people who are aged 55 and over? To do a mini series of Storytelling Workshops in Exeter (we had tried Bath first!)? A sort of Train the Trainer training whereby the said older people would become Storytelling Workshop facilitators…

Well, we told our truth, and at the same time hid some of the story. Preconceptions, projections and other performance type anxieties cloud the mind. With the willing help of Exeter CVS Learning, we got them. Nine lovely people from all walks of life. My good friend and Superact filmmaking colleague Kevin Redpath and I got to CoLab in Exeter with five minutes to spare on the first day. Thank you M5!

We hit the ground running. Straight in to discussing and ice-breaking exercises. These folks yearned for more. They wanted story. They were feisty, demanding, challenging. They prodded and poked me to raise my game. It was fun, exhilarating, at times daunting.

Ice breakers and warm up exercises are a must. They, well, break the ice, they start to build confidence whilst having fun. So, when the first time of sharing stories came up, mid-afternoon on the first day, the sparks flew and there was magic in the air. “I’m starting to get why you want Personal Stories”, one lady remarked. Another, Jude, put it so succinctly, “Telling stories is the quickest, most direct way to make our thoughts and feelings understood by others.” Wow, and I’m supposed to be the workshop leader… just simple proof of the wisdom that is tapped in to during this type of workshop. Some of the more experienced people had been facilitators, mentors and even storytellers. None had come across the use of Personal Stories in an Applied Storytelling setting. When we use stories of our own lives, or those of others close to us, we truly connect; it is transformational and, especially for the teller, it can be extremely cathartic.

The personalities of what initially were nine strangers started to shine through. Just by their look, the two chaps were wizard-like. The ladies brought  questions, smiles, mischief and laughter. We had bonded, we now understood each other: friendships were forged.

I loved it. I loved them. Kevin was busying himself taking amazing photos, recording some stories with audio only whilst some were videoed. I was in my element. Being present when other people share their lives with you is a privilege, an honour. I wished that we had time to work with some of these stories, to weave and shape them. Some have been recorded to be made into a short film. A couple of them will be put into a publication about Intercultural Stories for Aladdin & the Intergenerational Lamp.

It had been tough, the three Tuesdays in CoLab in Exeter. It had been challenging. By the end of it, it seems that all participants want to join us on the next stage – and actually lead Storytelling Workshops for Younger People aged 18–30.

Hey, that’s where you could come in!

If you are an organisation who works with the 18–30 age group, do email us to see how we could collaborate on this: to see how we could lift and creatively improve the lives of under-privileged young adults, together.

Stu Packerstu@superact.org.uk