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The Transformative Power of Storytelling for Elder Women: Empowering Voices, Preserving Legacies

Storytelling has long been a cherished tradition within communities and cultures, serving as a means of passing down knowledge, values and history. For elder women, in particular, storytelling holds a special significance, offering them a powerful tool for self-expression, empowerment and preserving their legacies.

The “Sages” share their stories, triumphs and wisdom at the Menasha Senior Center

As an audio producer, I saw a wonderful opportunity to document their lives in a rich and powerful way — by recording the ladies’ stories for posterity. (The human voice is as textured and individual as a fingerprint, and I was thrilled when they all agreed to let me do it, to bring their stories to the fore!)

As with many people, the isolation of the pandemic forced me into a great deal of self-reflection, and this resulted in a desire to tell stories of how the arts offered me hope and healing throughout my life. The Full Spirals podcast was born. The first season of Full Spirals was dedicated to writing and recording the many stories I had gotten down on paper while in isolation.

Sage Wisdom

In addition to my work as a writer and producer, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching brain and body fitness classes to a group of elder women since 2014. Their sage advice and wisdom over the years inspired so much of who I am and what I’ve become. (I began referring to this group as my “Sages.”)

One of our Sages hailed from New Jersey and danced on American Bandstand; another drove a stock car and another created handmade greeting cards and went zip-lining to celebrate her birthday. They never failed to surprise and delight me! But when the pandemic hit, the lockdown made our weekly exercise gatherings impossible, and we all missed one another terribly.

Once vaccines became widely available and folks began to feel safe to gather again, we began to meet monthly for luncheons to reestablish our connection to one another and share about our lives again. During one luncheon, I facilitated a short writing exercise called “Six Word Memoirs” to help them tell the stories of their lives.

After this experience, I knew that I needed to carry this idea forward to try and tell as many stories as possible AND bring them forward — out into the community. We now have a “Sages Story Circle” that meets from 10 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday at the Menasha Senior Center.

Through a generous Community Vision Fund grant to BoomARTS! from the Community Foundation I’ve been able to work to dedicate the next season of Full Spirals to amplifying these voices and to telling these stories. And thus, the third season of Full Spirals — and the “Sages Series” — were born.

As we recognize and embrace the value of their stories, we create a more inclusive and interconnected society, where the voices of elder women are cherished, and their legacies preserved for generations to come. And I couldn’t think of a better use of my own voice than to continue to amplify theirs.


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