I’m a family-first kind of girl. Friends are great, yes, but families are unique forces in their own right – kneaded with memories and experience and perspective. And I often think of the legacy my own family will leave – is leaving. The knowledge shared from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter and beyond. I recently purchased this book in an effort to document those stories that have knotted my own family ties after realizing how easily they can slip away if we’re not intentionally sharing them with another. To that end, I’ve rounded up a few interesting projects online which focus on the beauty of our elders – a generation full of trials and triumphs and everything between:
Interaction designer Callie Thompson has spent the past year immersed in researching people over the age of 65. “The current state of the Internet and social media doesn’t favor our elders,” she writes. “Younger generations are documenting their every move and meal online, but older people don’t have an avenue where they fit in. The short form content of Facebook and Twitter doesn’t invite the reflective, meaningful stories that seniors have in abundance.”
So Callie, along with Dave Gottlieb and Eli Robinson, are bridging the generational gap online with an iPad app called Spoak. A digital storytelling platform for seniors, Spoak can be used to upload images of photos and heirlooms, recording audio stories for each image and inviting others to share their versions of those same events and objects. “Spoak’s design upends the younger generation’s focus on ephemeral, impulsive content, by instead placing value on slow content,” Callie writes. “We’re designing for reverence and good stories. We’re designing an experience for elders to be heard.”
It’s a deeper take on another recent launch created by Sarah Koik. The Grandma Museum is an online catalog of gifts from Sarah’s grandmother, ranging from well-loved mittens to antique silverware. “For the last 28 years, my grandmother has given me objects from her life as gifts,” Sarah writes. “She gave me watercolor paper and notes with advice. She organized boxes, labeled them and tied them with homemade string. We decided to catalogue these objects to capture a life over two generations, and the broader sentimentality of receiving gifts from a grandmother.”
But perhaps the greatest gift we can receive from our elders is knowledge, experience and perspective. And London’s latest social enterprise The Amazings is dedicated to this cause, creating a space where senior citizens can teach a wide variety of skills – from bike repair to floral arrangement – to a ready and willing audience. ‘There’s nothing better than learning from someone who has a lifetime of experience, sharing shortcuts that you won’t find in most books or websites, and dropping in little stories that make the learning experience really special,” said Amazings co-founder Adil Abrar.
It’s heartening to see a trend that embraces the gifts our elders have given – and continue to give us. Even the art scene is taking note with installations like X-Times People Chair and Eyes As Big As Plates (pictured), celebrating the bravery, beauty and heritage of those who have walked this road years before us. Because in a world where we’re ever-focused on the future, sometimes the truest answers lie deep within our past.
Image Credits: Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen