Addressing social isolation
through storytelling

Traditionally Celtic, Irish and Scottish Highland bards, seannachies fulfilled an important role as knowledge holders of clans, recounting genealogical histories and upholding birthrights as well as recalling historical deeds of note.

Our Seannachies project is a network of researchers, practitioners and policy makers who aim to give voice to communities of elders through creative approaches and storytelling, and develop a richer understanding of loneliness. In doing so, we consider innovative ways to create and sustain social cohesion.

We aim to reposition perceptions around elder communities by demonstrating the richness of their narratives, life experiences and wisdom.

From the early days of the project, we have tried to understand and frame loneliness as part of the human condition; something we are all vulnerable to. Our approach is embedded in creative, contemporary and performative responses to social challenges, which:

– give voice to communities of elders;

– create individual and collective narratives;

– share therapeutic storytelling and practices.

The project has held a series of storytelling events, generating deep lessons around vulnerability for participants and audiences. These included how storytelling can generate empathic responses and feelings of mutual connectedness and support. Key collaborators include design practitioners and researchers, social scientists and storytellers who aim to influence policy through practice based approaches.

The Seannachies network has generated insights, positive ideas and reflections, as well as highlighting a number of challenges to be addressed. Importantly, the network has also identified and put forward specific actions and ideas for future development.

The group has already demonstrated that creative practices and storytelling — in a variety of forms — are powerful method of engaging community and promoting social inclusion. The Seannachies network has successfully brought together Government officials, social policy advisers, academics, designers, creative artists, storytellers and members of the community. It argues for a continued collaborative and creative approach to dealing with the challenges of isolation and loneliness among our elderly population.

Finally, it is crucial that the Seannachies story continues to be shared and celebrated. As it becomes better known, it will attract a wider network of support thus deepening its impact on community wellbeing for socio-cultural benefit.



Image Credit: Christine Kingsley