Memories Into Stories:

A Storytelling Resource Guide for Senior Adults

Welcome to Storytelling Toronto’s Memories Into Stories online resource guide. Here, you can navigate through links, downloadable articles, tip sheets and videos to develop a deeper understanding of the connection between storytelling and memory, and the mental health benefits that storytelling can stimulate. We also hope that this guide will help you to shape your memories into stories through the art of storytelling.

In December 2016 Storytelling Toronto, in conjunction with Kensington Gardens Long Term Care, The Neighbourhood Group, and the Arts and Health Program at Baycrest Health Sciences, held two workshops and a symposium as part of The Storycare Project. Storycare was a new approach to integrating the art and experience of storytelling into healthcare and community leadership settings. Programming included workshops led by facilitators Norma Cameron and Rani Sanderson and talks by storytelling-in-palliative-care leader Mary Louise Chown, and Alzheimer’s expert Dr. Steven R. Sabat, in addition to performances and story circles led by veteran local storytellers. Take a look at the video below:


If you are curious about the benefits of storytelling for the mental health of senior adults, or interested in guidance on how to collect the stories of senior adults, below you will find resources — from journal articles to practical tips and guides — compiled to help you with this, whether you are a senior adult yourself, a professional who works with senior adults, or a family member seeking to record some of your loved one’s memories.

This Resource Guide will be of interest to storytellers, seniors interested in developing their own storytelling skills, allied health professionals, palliative care counsellors, community animators, family caregivers, and anyone interested in the power of stories to build intergenerational and intercultural bridges.


Helpful Tips / Collecting Stories //
the contributors marked with * should be credited for their work, when their exercises below are used and shared
What is Reminiscence Therapy?
Storytelling Therapy for Seniors / Michelle Rodriguez
Shaping Your Story / Norma Cameron *
Helping Seniors Shape Their Story From a Photograph / Rani Sanderson *
Remember When / Steve Otto *
The Memory Basket Exercise / Teresa Clark *
Great Questions for Anyone / StoryCorps
Life Story Worksheets / The Legacy Project
Storytelling Wisdom . . . A Few Tips / Norma Cameron *
Creating a Little Story is Among the Best Memory
Techniques / Real Memory Improvement


“My stories are my wealth.” — Angela Sidney, Tagish Elder, Yukon Territory


Scholarly Articles //
Reminiscence therapy: Finding meaning in memories by Sandy Clever, Nursing 2013 4 (43): 36 – 37.
‘In Between the Fireflies’: Community art with senior women of Chinese heritage / Heather McLeod and Kathryn Ricketts, International Journal of Education Through Art 9 (1): 23 – 39.
Seeing the Person Behind the Patient / Amanda Clarke, Elizabeth Jane Hanson, and Helen Ross, Journal of Clinical Nursing 12: 697 – 706.
‘You have to be mindful of whose story it is?’: The challenges of undertaking life story work with people with dementia and their family carers / Jane McKeown, Tony Ryan, Christine Ingleton, and Amanda Clarke, Dementia 14 (2): 238 – 256.
Narrative Medicine: A model for Empathy, Reflection,
Profession, and Trust
 / Rita Charon, JAMA 286 (15): 1897 – 1902.
Narrative medicine: Attention, representation and affiliation / Rita Charon, Narrative 13 (3): 261 – 270.
Can resident life stories help nursing aides learn about
residents? A pilot study
 / M.C. Smith and C.M. Kreklewetz, The Journal of Nursing Home Research Sciences 1: 81 – 83.
Digital Storytelling An Emergent Method for Health
Promotion Research and Practice
/ Aline Gubrium, Health Promotion Practice 10 (2): 186 – 191. 

Watch & Listen //
I Have a Story / CBC Radio
Cultivating Narrative Intelligence / Norma Cameron/TEDxVictora
Honoring the stories of illness / Rita Charon
Alzheimer’s patients turn to stories instead
of memories
Let me tell you a story / Norma Cameron
Village of Storytellers / Storytelling Toronto


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Memory/Oral History Projects // What can reminiscence work lead to on a larger scale? //
The Alzheimer Society Music Project / The Alzheimer Society of Toronto is exploring the connections between music and memory
The Life of I / An ongoing project based in Regent Park, currently covering storytelling and senior adults
Murmur Toronto / Recordings of personal and historical anecdotes around Toronto
Harbord Village History / Recalling life in Harbord Village between 1930s and 1980s
Kensington Market’s Oral History Project
Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II / An oral history project conducted from 2010 – 2012, collecting the experiences of Italian internees and POWs in Canada


Special thanks to workshop facilitators Norma Cameron (Helping Seniors Discover and Apply the Power of Story, Dec. 2, 2016) and Rani Sanderson (Helping Seniors Shape their Story from a Photograph, Dec. 8, 2016), and especially to keynote speakers Dr. Steven R. Sabat and Mary Louise Chown (Storycare Symposium, Dec. 9, 2016), and to Melissa Tafler at the Arts & Health Program at Baycrest Health Sciences.

Thanks also to Symposium presenters: Dinny Biggs & the Village of Storytellers, Lorne Brown, Calogero Chiarelli, Mary Louise Chown, Lynda Howes, Celia Lottridge, Marylyn Peringer, Louise Profeit-Leblanc, Jim Rennie, Itah Sadu and Dan Yashinsky.

Thank you to Kensington Gardens, Central Neighbourhood House and Baycrest Health Sciences for their kind permission to use their space for these events.

The Storycare Project Planning Team: Debra Baptiste, Dinny Biggs, and Dan Yashinsky

Memories Into Stories © Storytelling Toronto 2017
All Photographs © Cristina Pietropaolo/Storytelling Toronto 2017
Memories Into Stories Video © Cameron Pulley/Storytelling Toronto 2017

This project is supported by Storytelling Toronto and New Horizons for Seniors Program (Employment and Social Development Canada).