Creativity for the ages

A group of students from Raumati South School and a group of residents at the care facility of retirement village Coastal Villas have been coming together to create imaginative stories, as part of an innovative new inter-generational storytelling project.

The project, called The Story Bridge, was funded by the Kāpiti Coast District Council through the Creative Communities Scheme, with the aim of building inter-generational bonds between the children and elders on the Kāpiti Coast, through the ageless medium of the imagination.

The project was first conceived by Greet Pauwelijn, founder of Book Island, a publishing company of children’s books in translation based in Raumati South and Emily Duizend, a local storyteller and facilitator, who coordinated the project.

“We were inspired by the book Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier and Kaatje Vermeire, recently published by Book Island. Maia and What Matters is about a granddaughter and grandmother who share a kindred spirit, which is able to transcend aging and illness”, said Greet.

“It also contains beautiful dreamlike illustrations which Emily, the coordinator, used as the basis for generating new stories with the elders and the children”.

The project involved working for a number of weeks with Steve Aiken’s class of 26 students aged 9-11, to discuss issues around ageing as well as learn new skills in storytelling and story making, before they were introduced to the elders taking part.

“Many of these students from room 17 had little contact with the very elderly, apart from their own grandparents, so it was a daunting experience for some to actually bring them into an age care home where they would be in contact with elders who were very frail or had memory loss”, said Emily.

“In the end, what the project showed clearly was that the act of creating something together, in this case stories, does indeed transcend age and differences. In fact it was magical to see the interaction and the joy that the elders and children brought to each other. As one of the students remarked, it was incredible how strong and rich a bond you can make with someone in just an hour”.

“Working on the Story Bridge project was a wonderful experience for my students. Building connections across this large generational gap with the elderly strengthens our community by creating a more three dimensions lattice”, concluded teacher Steve Aiken.

Emily and Greet plan to showcase the project at a public event early in the new year with the aim of generating further Story Bridge projects with other schools and age care homes.

Maia and What Matters and all other Book Island titles are available from The Beach Store, Moby Dickens, Paper Plus, Whitcoulls and the Mahara Gallery.