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Sharing Stories Boosts Sense of Meaning and Independence in Older Adults

typewriter-801921_640Research from NYU last June indicates writing activities may enhance a sense of meaning in life for older adults who live independently.

Wharton professor Adam Grant touts the benefits of writing to increase health, happiness, and productivity. Now the Living Legends occupational therapy program is proving how life-review writing, especially with an intergenerational exchange component, can help older adults maintain the cognitive functioning and overall well-being to enable them to live longer in their own homes.

For the study, seniors participated in an eight-week long life-review workshop using prompts, tips, and feedback to write their life stories. At the conclusion of the workshop, some seniors were randomly selected to participate in an “intergenerational exchange.” They met with college students, shared their work, and answered guided discussion questions about their stories’ content.

Researchers gathered information using questionnaires and written responses. They observed a significant increase in a sense of meaning and purpose in life among those who had participated in the intergenerational exchange, as opposed to those who had only taken the workshop.

More recent research calls for a revolution in senior living activities. Other initiatives like the Boston Memoir Project and memoir-writing workshops in retirement communities are also taking hold at various levels of senior living.

Source: American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Living Legends: Effectiveness of a Program to Enhance Sense of Purpose and Meaning in Life Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults