Re-Membering our lives: Aging, narrative and the arts. A community-based participatory research design proposed for older adults at Luther Court




Johnson-Lefsrud, Karen A.

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We are all aging. To be able to live one’s life with a sense of meaning and purpose up to and including the time of our death is a yearning common to most people. However, the realities of aging - the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual challenges that are inherent to the aging process - can provide barriers to the human desire to live life fully until we die. This project proposes a strategy for how a community can support older adults in an intentional way that enables them to live with a sense of well-being and purpose even in the face of frailty, loss and challenge. The project is set within the particular context of the community of the Luther Court Society, an organization which has provided care, housing and a wide range of services to older adults in the Greater Victoria community since 1979. Looking to the narratives of older adults as fertile ground for extracting meaning that can inform the present and provide a way into a hope-filled future, this project proposes an engagement strategy which can be used to elicit the stories and experiences of older adults. Designed as a community based participatory research framework, the older adults themselves are intended to be part of the research team, seeking to integrate life experience in a way that is life-enhancing. The engagement strategy is grounded in the literature of aging, health and social integration. Servant leadership is examined as a paradigm to look at the role of service in the community and to provide some insight into the relationship between the one serving and the one being served as one of mutuality wherein each serves the other. Methods of arts-based inquiry are looked to as helpful tools in meeting the objectives of the proposed engagement strategy. The arts engage us not only from an intellectual medium, but also from a sensory and whole-body experience, and as such embody the potential to evoke response and learning on a variety of levels. In particular, reminiscence theatre is examined as a helpful medium to explore the narratives of the community, and through an interactive theatre methodology, knowledge can be extracted and utilized in further iterations of the engagement strategy as well as to inform practice. Information gained from the engagement strategies can also be utilized in helping the Luther Court Society refine its unique Model of Care, Life Together, and to identify volunteer opportunities that capture the interests and skills of the older adults within the community, thereby deepening their engagement in the community in a positive way. The engagement strategy contributes to the discourse on aging particularly in its methodology, which acknowledges and seeks the critical, indeed primary voice of the older adults themselves and provides a vehicle for them to participate in ways that empower and bring creative response.



aging, social integration, reminiscence theatre, arts-based inquiry, narrative inquiry, volunteerism, spirituality, servant leadership, community-based participatory research, health and successful aging, model of care, community