Good practices

Sharing Stories, Sharing Life

Loneliness is a serious problem among the elderly in Europe. Chronic feelings of loneliness can bring people down into a spiral of social exclusion. Older people with a lower literacy level are especially at risk of social exclusion as participation in current knowledge based societies are very much based on the ability to read and write. Storytelling can help them to make sense of their lives and connect them with their social environment. The project uses stories to inform, to connect with others or to share feelings. Stories are used to organize our thoughts, find meaning and purpose and establish a sense of identity in this world. The project uses the principles of storytelling in the development of a training for volunteers to help them work with elderly people and cope with feelings of loneliness. 

The project aims to support older people to feel less lonely and isolated and to reconnect with their communities and interests.

The volunteers are trained to actively listen and have meaningful conversations with older people about their lives, their feelings, skills and aspirations and what they consider important.

 The project develops on-line and off-line resources to aid the process of sharing stories.   

Year(s): 2018-2021

Target group(s): Volunteers supporting elderly people / elderly people

Website or other online channels:


Digital developments provide new opportunities in sharing personal narratives. However, many elderly people feel hesitant using them. They are for instance anxious to retain their privacy and distinguish between what they want to share with family, close friends or acquaintances. This is particularly true for those with a low literacy level. This is a pity as these digital tools may help to arrange, capture and use stories.  
Taking into account the needs of older people with low (digital) literacy levels and those working with them, the project develops an e-training especially focusing on this target group. Method of Sharing Stories:

• Based on narrative therapy

• Older people share their life stories and memories with volunteers, staff, family members, etc

• Keep memories alive and give a focus to the conversation

• Strengthen the bond between narrator and Story Listener. It is easier to empathiseif you know someone's background

• Identify ‘sparkling moments’ in the stories to encourage Story Tellers to re-discover interests or hobbies



Type of product

Online resource Video clips / Films Course / Training Mobile application

Brief description of the outcomes

Resources available on website :


• Downloadable Story Listener & Story Teller booklets (to inspire and record stories on paper)

• Stor-e Tree web-based application (to record stories electronically) 

• User manual for the Stor-e Tree app

• Training guidance for organisations

• Visuals for training and general use

• Sharing Stories (


Story Listener training guidance is available on the website for organisations to adapt for their own volunteer training programmes Includes: 


• Advice and activities to improve volunteers’ communication and listening skills

• Useful tips and topics to get the conversation going

• Use of visual symbols to aid conversation

• How to deal with emotions

 • How to notice sparkling moments and the opportunities they offer   

Impact on target groups / Transferability potential

Impact on direct target groups: volunteers

  • increased their skills in helping elderly people combat loneliness increased motivation in their work
  • strengthened their bond with elderly people
  • increased their digital skills with using the e-materials

Impact on story tellers

  • Increased desire to be in contact with new people (90%)
  • Increased communication skills (90%)
  • Increased self-confidence (75%)
  • Increased desire to learn new things (71%)
  • Being more willing to face new challenges (74%)
  • Increased positive feelings toward themselves (77%)

Story Teller

  • Enjoyed being listened to
  • Increased positive feelings and connectedness
  • Sometimes a reconcilement with life and the past
  • Positive retrospect, amazement at work/life achievements  

The methods of storytelling and the materials produced can be easily transfered to other countries and target groups.




Promoter of the initiative: National Foundation for the Elderly (Stichting Nationaal Ouderenfonds)

Country: Austria Germany Luxembourg Netherlands United Kingdom

Languages available: Dutch English German

Website or other online channels:

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