Sessions will bring seniors' stories to lifeEverybody has a story to tell. Sometimes they just need a little help getting it out. That’s where Nothando Zulu comes in. For two days next week, the Twin Cities storyteller will work with seniors at Farmington’s Rambling River Center to help bring their stories to life.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Everybody has a story to tell. Sometimes they just need a little help getting it out.
That’s where Nothando Zulu comes in. For two days next week, the Twin Cities storyteller will work with seniors at Farmington’s Rambling River Center to help bring their stories to life. In a pair of sessions Aug. 15 and 16, Zulu will provide prompts to help participants recall memories that in some cases have long been forgotten, then help put them into a form that can captivate an audience. The group will perform the stories at an event Aug. 17.
The project is a partnership among Rambling River Center, the Dakota County Farmington Library and the Minnesota Creative Arts and Aging Network. The library provided a similar residency in 2012 with residents at Trinity Care Center, and library manager Mary Scheide said when the opportunity arose again she reached out to the senior center. The Rambling River Center advisory board chose the storytelling session from a list of options that included scrapbooking, wood carving and more.
“We kind of settled on storytelling, figuring everybody has one,” senior center coordinator Missie Kohlbeck said. “They’re all interesting and they’re all different.”
Kohlbeck also hopes to make some of the stories generated with this project part of Rambling River Center’s 30th anniversary celebration in September.
Farmington seniors got an introduction to the project last week when Zulu and MCAAN program director Pat Samples visited Rambling River Center. Samples talked then about the importance of exercising creative muscles and trying new things late in life. Doing creative work stimulates the brain, she said, and opens doors to new interests.
Samples knows the kind of impact the storytelling project can have. She’s been through 25 or so previous sessions with Zulu, and she has seen first hand the thrill participants feel when they put their story into words.
Some of that was evident even last week, when Zulu told a story about a job she held for only a single morning. Her story about working a press in a clothing shop sparked stories from others in the room about their own experiences with heavy old irons.
Samples has heard stories about picking raspberries on Grandma’s farm, first kisses and lost love.
The stories can also build connections among seniors, who might learn they have something in common with the person sitting next to them.
“They brought back to life stories that have been way in the back of their mind,” Samples said. “I’ve seen people get socially engaged with others and get to know each other in ways they didn’t before.”
About 20 seniors attended last week’s introductory session, and Samples said she was encouraged to see many stick around after the presentation had ended. Kohlbeck said she hopes for good participation next week.
Storytelling has been a part of the community experience going back to people telling tales around a campfire. Kohlbeck said she hopes the project will help bring people together.
Whatever happens, though, she believes there is value in putting more stories out into the world.
“You might not leave a huge legacy like tons of money,” she said. “But there is a legacy, because there is that story, and they know it.”
For more information about the storytelling sessions, call the Rambling River Center at 651-280-6970.