Older Mind Matters

The power of stories in education and practice

I’ve just been reading Narrative Gerontology: Theory, Research and Practice, edited by G. Kenyon, P. Clark and B. de Vries, not a new book, but most enjoyable and exciting.

I was particularly keen to read the chapter on using narrative therapy with older adults (Chapter 12) and, for that reason, ordered the book from a library, but, to my surprise, I have read it from cover to cover. From the moment I read in Chapter 1 ‘”the old” is someone else … we are merely ourselves getting older’ I was hooked. That resonated with the experience of meeting people who say ‘I don’t want to be with old people!’ when they themselves are in their late 70s or 80s (and with personal experience too).

I’ve found another quotable quote in Chapter 5 (about the stories of older people living with pain): ‘their stories stay with me; they become part of the pool of stories that I draw on’. Those of us who teach about older people often find ourselves drawing on the stories that have been shared with us by the people we have met. In fact my brain is crammed with fascinating people I have met over my time working in older people’s mental health. I sometimes wonder if there’s room for anyone more.

Ideas from narrative gerontology are valuable to me in education and training as they provide help in teaching person-centred care. They may be even more useful in practice with older adults, in helping practitioners understand how and why the people they work with make the decisions they do. Maybe the course of action that wise workers in health and social care think is best isn’t best. Perhaps knowing more about the person’s story will help practitioners support them in making an even better decision!

I looked on amazon and I’m sorry to report that the book is relatively expensive, but that doesn’t stop it being a good and stimulating read. Recommended!


3 comments (Add your own)

1. Emyr wrote:
"The old is someone else". I find that very interesting: I have a lot of contact with medical students, and have taught in Manchester Medical School for some decades, but I still have to remind myself that my students are not my peers. One year, it was quite a shock to realise that I was teaching a group of fourth year students who had been born in the year I was a fourth year student. On occasion, I'll find a young person so pompous that I have to work hard to remember that I'm not their junior in years. Most are delightful, though, and constructive conversation is easy. A few are less relaxed, and I guess that, to them, I am so obvious old that I've become someone or something else.

Fri, October 19, 2012 @ 10:48 AM

2. David Jolley wrote:
Right well that sounds very interesting: It is rare for me to read big books from cover to cover
I guess the only way to access such a book is on loan from a library: £80 is the cheapest available via Amazon. I wonder why it is so costly

Stories are wonderful and powerful. Preachers and politicians use them all the time and many of us have been attracted to this work by the tales of shared adventures from pioneer colleagues and sustained by new stories from friends of all disciplines and none who are in the field

Words are useful, but often not quite enough in themselves to convey the dramatics and humour of situations.
The drama of the squashed budgie (squashed inadvertently by an adoring but short-sighted old lady owner onto a ‘snot-green’ carpet) gained much from the deadpan delivery in a Scots accent from the clinician who received its first confession.
Faces, hands and arms and whole gaits may be recruited to convey the true excitement and tension which have been witnessed

The growth of interest and confidence in qualitative methods and narrative are a blessed relief from the dry world of statistical significance reporting on contrived comparisons which prove to have very little relevance in the real world – But then it will be necessary to generate another multi-centre, multi-million pound trial to explore matters further and keep the university afloat


A related topic, with a less expensive favourite book of mine is Elder Tales – Fairy Stories with older heroes and heroines (it is still in the dictionary like ducks and drakes, ewes and rams)
Allan Chinen: In the Ever After. Chiron Publications Illinois 1989
About £18 via Amazon

Sun, October 21, 2012 @ 10:33 PM

3. Emyr wrote:
Dave writes that "stories are wonderful and powerful. Preachers and politicians use them all the time..." Major mixed message, there, isn't there?

Thu, October 25, 2012 @ 11:13 AM

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