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Life Story Club (LSC) creates small social clubs for older adults to share life stories, foster connections and enhance a sense of belonging and purpose.
Life Story Clubs are designed for older adults who are interested in coming together each week to share stories with other older adults. Clubs offer an opportunity for people to record their life stories as part of a community, alongside their peers. Life Story Clubs are offered to everyone age 60+, however, we prioritize those most at risk for loneliness and social isolation, including individuals who are chronically ill, or lacking in mobility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one-third of older adults in the U.S. report feeling lonely, and nearly one-fourth of older adults ages 65 and older are considered socially isolated. People who are socially isolated or lonely are at increased risk of higher blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, a weakened immune system, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, making them more likely to be admitted to nursing homes and the emergency room. Older adults are also more likely to be socially isolated and lonely due to changes in health status and social connections that can come with growing older, such as hearing, vision, and memory loss, trouble getting around, and/or the loss of family and friends. According to the AARP Foundation, social isolation is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.
In New York, the population of older adults living across the five boroughs is projected to balloon 40% by 2040. Across the state of New York, the older adult population is projected to grow by 25% compared to a mere 3% growth in the state’s general population. NYC Health. (2019) Health of Older Adults in New York City. City University of New York. (2021) The Case for Public Investment in Higher Pay for New York State Home Care Workers: Estimated Costs and Savings Home Care
Small clubs of up to 15 older adults come together weekly for one hour to share key parts of their life stories in a warm, supportive environment. Clubs are guided by Life Story Club facilitators who have been carefully vetted and trained. Facilitators are warm, creative and welcoming, and come from a variety of nonclinical backgrounds. They are writers, artists, social workers and journalists attuned to group dynamics who make sure everyone has a chance to share and to be heard.
Clubs are currently offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Life Story Clubs are offered by Zoom or phone so that anyone can participate. Clubs are, however, designed with geographic proximity in mind, so that participants have the option of coming together in person to deepen their connections.
Our clubs are easy to access and do not require anything other than a landline! We also offer assistance to those who need help joining the meeting. The fastest way to get assistance on the club day is by reaching out to the club facilitator directly or by calling (315) 355-6229.
Our facilitators use prompts to guide story sharing. For example, you might be invited to share stories on any number of topics such as a first dance, favorite recipe, stories of travel, chance encounters or your greatest life lessons.
While the verbal sharing of true stories is at the core of every club experience, participants also have the option of contributing to the Life Story Library. These legacy projects are created collectively and highlight the life experiences of all participants in a club to be shared and celebrated by their loved ones and communities.
Life Story Club members are invited to participate in other initiatives such as the Elder Advisory Council, intergenerational wisdom-sharing podcasts and in-person story shares.
The Life Story Library is a digital repository of club stories. Each club holds their own recording sessions which are guided by the facilitator. Stories are not rehearsed or scripted in advance, and are recorded over Zoom or phone. They are then transcribed, uploaded and saved on our digital platform with the support of the Life Story Club facilitators. To see an example of a club page click here.
Stories are always recorded with written or recorded consent of participants and the Life Story Library is password-protected and not searchable. We do not use last names or other identifying information.
Life Story Club facilitators guide club members through how to access their story pages by QR code, email or text so that they can share their pages with friends and family. Alternatively, members can provide contact information of a caregiver or someone with whom they want us to share their recorded story.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to solving for social isolation and loneliness facing older adults, interventions in which older people are active participants are found to be particularly effective. Our small group approach with an emphasis on creativity aligns with facets of the Creative Aging framework. Additionally, peer-to-peer- connections are increasingly considered to be an essential health-promoting tool, helping to protect against the negative physical and mental impacts of isolation.
When asked why they join the club week after week, members say the experience makes them laugh and they enjoy the company. They tell us that sharing stories helps them to open up and that recording their stories lets them create and share a personal legacy. When surveyed, 99% of Life Story Club members said they felt “supported” by their club. 93% indicated feeling a sense of community, and 91% felt their mood improved after joining even a couple of club meetings.
We survey participants before they start a club and again after 12 sessions. We use the UCLA 3-Item Loneliness Scale as well as other metrics around belonging, mood and sense of purpose.
Please access the patient/client referral form here.
Partnerships and clubs are customized to fit the needs of a wide range of partners which have included libraries, community-based organizations, senior centers, hospitals, healthcare entities, assisted living facilities, and many more.
A “closed” club can be adapted to suit the needs of a specific partner. Some of our closed clubs are organized around specific themes such as recipes, music, elder wisdom, the immigrant experience, etc. Partners can choose which type of club theme is best for its constituents. When we offer partners exclusive clubs for their community members, we charge those partners a small (sliding scale) fee to help cover a portion of the facilitators’ time.
If you are a local community organization, we are happy to host in-person or virtual information sessions for your team or for your members. We include a simple Zoom tutorial for older adults, share printed materials and walk them through the needed steps to be able to join our club by Zoom or over the phone.
When it’s geographically and logistically possible, we try to help support or plan casual meet-ups for club members a few times a year. We can also work with local community partners in NYC to host club gatherings at their sites to showcase life story projects upon request.
We do not require individuals to pay any fee to participate, though donations are always welcome. We are a nonprofit and our work is made possible by grants, donations, and through earned income. Historically, we have had success reaching older adults through partnerships with mission-aligned health and community partners. When we offer partners closed clubs, we charge those partners a small (sliding scale) fee to help cover a portion of the facilitators’ time. We also work with partners to raise joint funds to support the programming.
Please visit our Careers page for any open opportunities.
Life Story Club should not be considered a sufficient substitute for therapy or counseling. Participation requires individuals to be able to listen to the stories shared by other club members so individuals with significant hearing loss may be ill-suited to the program, as well as those with moderate or severe dementia, or Alzheimer’s. We do offer specialty groups for those with mild cognitive impairment.
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