elderly memoirs
February 8, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for feedback on the possibility of creating an elderly memoir blog. A couple of weeks ago my mother’s minister told a story based his father’s reminiscing about the past. The minister fortunately videotaped the conversation with his father so it was saved but he added “many great stories die with the storyteller.” His remarks got me to thinking that many stories and much wisdom from the elderly will be lost if not recorded in some fashion.

As examples, I found the city of Boston and the state of Ohio has memoir projects. The first project, http://www.cityofboston.gov/elderly/announ_memoir.asp, combines the efforts of the city of Boston and the Grubb Street writer’s group to teach the elderly how to tell and write their memoirs. The state of Ohio Great Depression Story Project, http://aging.ohio.gov/news/greatdepressionstoryproject/ is based on interviews and focuses on the early lives of the elderly.

My original idea was to conduct interviews in nursing homes but it appears HIPAA regulations will not allow the elderly to share personal information with an outsider. Of course, there are plenty of elderly citizens who reside in places other than nursing homes. I have thought of working through churches.

Any and all advice on collecting elderly interviews and turning them into a blog would be appreciated.
posted by jcbach to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have any advice, but are you familiar with StoryCorps? At the very least, might be worth looking to them for inspiration, etc., since they've recorded a zillion people's stories.
posted by jeb at 7:36 PM on February 8, 2010


Well, what you want to do is record oral histories. You might visit your local library for some hints on best practices. Or you could take a look at a website like this one.

Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:46 PM on February 8, 2010


Many communities do have oral histories projects. You might want to check with your local historical society to see if they're conducting something along this line. If you are doing it yourself, make sure you have signed written permission to use the recordings and transcriptions of the recordings for historical and educational purposes, and in this case, to post them online, or you'll have these wonderful stories, but you won't be allowed to use them.
posted by clarkstonian at 7:56 PM on February 8, 2010


No direct answer to your question but some are trying to make Black Friday the National Day of Listening where you're encouraged to record elderly family members, telling stories.
posted by Rash at 7:59 PM on February 8, 2010


"My original idea was to conduct interviews in nursing homes but it appears HIPAA regulations will not allow the elderly to share personal information with an outsider."

HIPAA prevents the NURSING HOME from sharing personal info with outsiders. The patients should have no problem.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:35 PM on February 8, 2010


I just have a link for you, that I believe was originally linked to me on the Blue. Old Jews Telling Jokes is one example of niche version of what you seem to want to do, and might work as a nice example. I didn't realize until now that it's actually a tumblr. Most of the participants aren't actually very old, of course, but part of the website's success lies in the framework that it functions in. It's short videos of someone standing in front of a camera, telling a joke. If you're looking to refine your idea into something more than memoirs, you may want to take the same angle of cutting out the fat and preserving the central core of whatever you end up recording, and presenting it in a simple, straightforward way.
posted by Mizu at 10:33 PM on February 8, 2010


Awesome example on this BBC website about WW2. This stuff was collected on-line and took off mainly because (let's face it) the BBC had no trouble promoting and publicising the project. Also, the age-group you will be targeting are surprisingly active on-line, so it might not be necessary for you to make any visits.
posted by BrokenEnglish at 2:38 AM on February 9, 2010


I'm confused by this comment; “HIPAA prevents the NURSING HOME from sharing personal info with outsiders. The patients should have no problem.” I know some patients would be happy to share their stories but I thought HIPAA would prevent me from sharing with anyone. I would love to get into nursing homes as patients seemed to be so bored and shows signs of worthlessness. I think sharing their lives with others could add a spark.

Someone else indicated a need for “signed written permission to use the recordings and transcriptions of the recordings for historical and educational purposes.” Is there a standard form for such permission?
posted by jcbach at 5:29 AM on February 9, 2010


IANAL, but as far as I understand, HIPAA only prevents the nursing home staff from sharing patient's information with you. The patients still have all their rights -- they can tell you whatever they want, and you can publicize that however you and the patients have agreed, same as with anybody else.

(It's just like how your own doctor couldn't tell me all about your medical problems.)

I have no idea, though, about patients with mental impairments (such as Alzheimer's) who may not be able to fully give consent.
posted by wyzewoman at 6:10 AM on February 9, 2010


Go for it!! A UW-Manitowoc class just did something similar; unfortunately the only article I can find exists in the Google cache.
posted by mimi at 6:44 AM on February 9, 2010


"I know some patients would be happy to share their stories but I thought HIPAA would prevent me from sharing with anyone."

HIPAA prevents medical and support staff from sharing patient information with unauthorized individuals. The patients themselves can tell you anything they want about anything they want, including their recent colonoscopy, and you can repeat it to anyone you want, as long as you are not a medical professional who is bound to protect patient confidentiality.

A nursing home is not a magical place where everything said inside is suddenly unrepeatable. HIPAA only applies to heath care workers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 AM on February 9, 2010


jcbach, this is a great idea!

I've been doing the same thing with a group for a while, but not on a blog. We use a fairly standard permissions form from the Oral History Association. You can change it for whatever your needs might be.

You don't say where you are -- California has the Regional Oral History Office, which will give you some good pointers on questions and how to frame interviews. FoundSF has some oral history interviews and videos.

I found my interviewees first of all through friends and neighbors, but it was really organic -- they'd tell their friends, and they'd tell their friends, and so on. We gave a little talk at the senior center and got more signups that way, and now we have a backlog!
posted by vickyverky at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2010


Also, there's Duplex Planet, which was once a zine and is now a blog.
posted by vickyverky at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2010


Someone asked where I'm plan on conducting the elderly memoirs. I'm currently in Florida serving as a caregiver for my mother; she has a winter home south of Daytona Beach. However, other parts of the year I will be in Indiana and Ohio. Since several people mentioned seeking guidance from oral history faculty, I've notice the U. of Florida and Indiana University both have oral history departments.
posted by jcbach at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2010


My mom used to work as an Activities Coordinator, splitting her time between several nursing homes and personal care homes in our area. I know she would have been interested in helping facilitate a project like this. Maybe you could work through people in a position like hers instead of contacting the nursing homes directly?

Additionally, you might find some inspiration in Reminisce Magazine.
posted by alight at 6:42 PM on February 9, 2010


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