The Zeitgeist Program: Storytelling for Meaningful Engagement

Young students and senior woman working in the library.

Award Date: 2018

Project Lead(s): Donna Levi, Recreation Therapist

Project Title: Zeitgeist: Utilizing Intergenerational Co-Design & Storytelling as a New Model for Therapeutic Recreation in Long-Term Care Facilities

What is the issue?

Residents in long-term care homes benefit from recreational and social activities that bring meaning to their life experience. Design students at Emily Carr University need opportunities to test their skills in real-world settings.

What did we do?

We created the Zeitgeist program, a 6-week recreation program over 3 months for residents at local long-term care homes. Guided by their professor, university students in a communication design program helped small groups of residents to design and write personal stories and publish them. In total, 34 design students, 31 older adults with some level of cognitive impairment, two clinicians and two support staff participated. We assessed the program to see if it increased residents’ well-being as well as the capacity of clinicians and care staff. We also assessed students’ perspectives and attitudes toward seniors and how well they applied design skills.

What did we find?

Residents and students benefited from the program. The storytelling format was an excellent way to build connections between generations. Healthcare professionals said residents benefited from engaging with students. Long-term care staff learned more about residents and increased their confidence and ability to improve residents’ quality of life. Students enjoyed the opportunity to apply design skills in a real-world setting.