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Echoes from the past to enable intergenerational engagement: the "Reminiscens" project

Reminiscing (i.e., recalling and revisiting our past memories) is a common human experience. We reminisce to create our identities. We reminisce to maintain our relationships. We reminisce to review our lives. And we also reminisce together. The project "Reminiscens" is the result of 2 years of Participatory Action Research and Design, which eventually led to the co-design of a tablet application for facilitating conversation around personal memories. Our goal was to use reminiscence supported by IT as a bridge for intergenerational social interactions, and we did so! Social reminiscence supported with IT has an enormous potential for inspiring younger people to engage with older adults through mentorship around new technologies.

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There is one thing we all have in common:  amazing life stories to tell. Starting from this simple assumption, and while exploring the topics of the use of ICTs for enabling a more active and happy ageing, we started  Reminiscens, a participatory design project by which researchers and seniors from a local community in Trento, Italy; explored together the idea of using memories as a bridge for socializing with others, especially with younger people.

​​From this participatory engagement, and after several participatory design workshops, a tablet application was created, with the goal of facilitating conversation, stimulating memories and helping in their preservation. The whole idea was to use it in an intergenerational context, where younger people could help both to  digitize the stories while at the same time acting as  listeners of the stories being told. 

Using Reminiscens

Reminiscens was also built to provide some stimulation by creating a context of multimedia around the stories that were introduced. As people told their stories, the system would suggest videos of old songs or pictures of nearby places that were related to the stories' period of time and place. Already in the process of design, by simply engaging older adults and young people in co-design sessions, we observed a great level of engagement and fun, which hinted how these kind of activities could motivate intergenerational interactions.  

Finally, using a prototype of Reminiscens as a technological probe, we conducted a 3-months longitudinal study, where we followed intergenerational groups of narrators and listeners as they met once a week for talking about the narrators stories with the goal of creating a book.  The whole experience prove to be a wonderful way of engaging younger people with older adults, and the senior center where the study was held is now adopting reminiscens as one of the many activities to foster volunteering with young this summer. 

There were also critical points, like having to write down stories while listening, which was at times a barrier for engagement. Or not being able to capture the whole richness of the story. On the other hand, reminiscens acted as stimulation instrument and a  ticket-to-talk, the perfect excuse for people to come together and engage. Younger listeners brought their expertise with ICTs to the table, while older adults narrators brought their wonderful stories, which enriched with the contextual context, gave way to an interesting array of other stories and interactions that can really serve as a way of engaging younger people into volunteering. 

In summary,  we had a great time!. We got excited with wonderful life stories. We saw how these stories motivated engagement between younger listeners and seniors, and how they brought back all kind of emotions and self-reflections. And we also had the joy of watching how both listeners and narrators collaborated in preserving those stories, and crafting a book of life out them, all of which give us confidence that social reminiscence supported with IT has an enormous potential for inspiring younger people to engage with older adults through mentorship around new technologies. 


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Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

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Hey! Really? That's wonderful! :-)

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