Niagara’s older residents encouraged to share stories for new regional initiative
BY CHAD ELLIS | MAR 1, 2022
PHOTO BY: BRETT JORDAN FROM UNSPLASH
Residents in the Niagara Region are being encouraged to submit and share their stories and life experiences on a weekly basis as part of a new regional initiative. These stories will be used to aid research that is being done locally on the impact that isolation has had on residents over the past two years.
This initiative, known as the Niagara Stories project, is the outcome of a collaboration between Cyber-Seniors Niagara and McMaster University, who will be completing the research component of the project.
Cyber-Seniors is a non-profit organization that teaches elderly residents how to utilise and engage with technology and social platforms. Young volunteers are given courses and educational exercises to assist in guiding these residents, and they serve as digital mentors for them. Senior residents who participate in the organization’s programs have access to technology training as well as opportunities to participate in projects that keep them socially connected and involved.
Participants in the initiative will be able to meet virtually on Zoom each Thursday from now until September of this year between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to share and discuss their stories or life experiences. These stories do not have any precise criterion that must be met, and they can take any number of forms, once participants are comfortable sharing and do not divulge sensitive information.
Despite being open to anybody, the project’s focus is on giving older residents in particular the platform to share their stories. Those who tell their stories at the sessions will be able to receive responses from every other participant, if they so wish, which Cyber-Seniors Niagara believes will spark dialogue and make the region’s older residents feel more involved. Residents who choose to participate will be under no obligation to attend each and every meeting and may engage in the project at their leisure.
Aside from the possibility to share these stories, there are additional incentives for participants, particularly seniors. The initiative will provide a chance for these residents to gain a number of technical skills, which have become crucial to have as virtual spaces and platforms have become more widely used in recent years.
At the same time, Cyber-Seniors Niagara is enlisting the assistance of student volunteers to become digital mentors to these seniors, which is the core purpose of Cyber-Seniors. Ideally, these youth volunteers, who have more technological experience than the senior residents, will help facilitate the sharing of their stories by teaching them how to use virtual meeting platforms or even assist the storytellers in sharing their stories through other creative mediums.
The research that is being done during the course of the project is looking at how sharing these experiences affects the emotions of loneliness and isolation that many seniors describe feeling. McMaster’s research will also look into how people express their emotions via stories and verbally shared experiences.
While this study is certainly valuable, the major purpose of Cyber-Seniors Niagara in undertaking this joint endeavour with McMaster is the local community-building element that the initiative will provide. The organization hopes that the Niagara Stories initiative will benefit the region’s older residents in a variety of ways and will provide the groundwork for similar future endeavours.
Those interested in participating or volunteering in the initiative are invited to phone 905 329 3124 or visit the Cyber-Seniors Niagara website.