Posted by suzanne on Oct 30, 2012
Stories are how we make and find meaning in the world. Lives are understood through and shaped by stories. We recognize our own stories within the stories of others.
Stories are powerful for both the individuals telling them and for those hearing the story; the personal connection goes both ways. This is evident when you listen to a live reading of a book or hear a really good storyteller recounting a tale. The passion of the storyteller is evident and everyone present is moved and becomes a part of the story.
In our society, some individuals, like journalists, are excellent at finding the story and honing it to convey meaning. Storytelling is so powerful that it is often used to sell products. However, storytelling isn’t just used in the media and in advertising. There is a growing interest in therapeutic medicine and the use of story, with medical narrative becoming more popular as a way of listening to patients and understanding them. This helps medical professionals to absorb and interpret patients’ stories so they can treat the whole person, not just the illness.
Story is also critical within qualitative research. As a researcher, storytelling and narrative are important to me. I like to hear people’s stories and understand their experiences, thoughts and feelings. This phenomenological way of understanding my participants’ experiences and their perspective on issues is very real and vivid for me. People and their lives are beautiful and it is a privilege to be able to listen to people’s incredible stories. In my qualitative research, I try to honour their lives and experiences. I recognize that they have taught me a great deal just by sharing their stories.
Stories have drawbacks within research. They don’t convey the larger context and this can be limiting when trying to understand something. This is why I use a mixed methods approach in my research, combining qualitative and quantitative inquiry.
Nevertheless, I believe that stories will become increasingly important. Stories both engage and connect people. As we deal with new realities and social challenges and embrace the Age of Elderhood, we need to listen more closely to each other’s stories. By valuing and respecting each other, we can work towards common goals. All of this will help us become Age Ready as we create a space for healthy aging.