Lockdown might just provide the space and time to help someone write those memoirs before it's too late. Helping an older friend or relative put down on paper the experiences of their lives – from the tumultuous times they've lived through, down to the smallest but most colourful contemporary details – might give meaning and purpose to phone calls during this period.
To help you, the Life Stories project from Bridging Ages is offering free access to their Life Stories book-writing software. Ordinarily, Life Stories is a community service programme run by schools, local groups and charities.
Teenagers visit older people and interview them about their lives. Their stories are turned into a professionally published book. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Bridging Ages has adapted their materials for use by friends, family and volunteer befrienders.
Referring to the World Health Organisation's recommendation that we phone isolated older people every day during the coronavirus emergency, the idea might appeal to you to use those phone calls to capture and preserve precious memories. Bridging Ages is a non-profit group that connects older and younger people and is based in West Sussex. Until September 2020, they're making available their materials and software to download for free.
The programme aims to alleviate loneliness felt by older people and increase understanding between young and old, hence the name, Bridging Ages. In more normal times students and schoolchildren get involved, but with face-to-face visiting not permitted this is another way that people's biographies may be recorded for posterity.
The Life Stories project is a 'brilliant, purposeful way to connect people,' says Shirley Holland, the manager of Mayfield & Five Ashes Community Services (MAYFACS), an organisation that works with older people in East Sussex. She has run Life Stories and seen the way it helps alleviate loneliness.
'Not only is there the social interaction, but the older person becomes totally absorbed in delving into their own history through memories and photographs. It gives them a real sense of purpose, and their worries, aches and pains are pushed into the back of their minds and their loneliness relieved.' For more information visit the Bridging Ages website. Or contact Hannah Fincham on 07795 832207. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.