Author Archives: Sara E. Lahti Thiam

The Value of Intergenerational Storytelling

Photograph by Sara Thiam. Do not reproduce without permission

“This is really starting to get interesting, because I have lots of stories to tell!” exclaimed Bernice (pseudonym), a 95-year-old participant in the newly-launched Upper Peninsula Digital History Initiative (UPDHI) in Hancock, a small town in northern Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.  The tension in the air was palpable as the four older adults and four youth participants introduced themselves around the table in the conference hall of the hosting organization, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.  In fact, Bernice, who turned out to be the project’s most captivating storyteller, insisted that her limited education level and current vision and hearing troubles would prevent her from being able to produce a video, and she nearly dropped out of the program.  But once the storytelling got started the mood eased and the elder participants filled the afternoon with moving tales and funny anecdotes covering topics ranging from war and activism to surviving the long, dark Hancock winters as children.  They were energized – and even surprised – that others were so were interested in their stories.  To my surprise, I left that conference room with a new perspective on the tiny town I grew up in – which I thought I knew inside out. Continue reading