Dr. Gibney is a teaching professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Drexel University in the United States. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology and completed a two-year National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology. In addition to her teaching, she presents trainings in mental health and aging and in ethical issues arising in late life and dementia care for professionals working in health care and social services.
Training Students and Professionals in Aging Using Narrative Themes
Maureen Gibney, Drexel University, United States
Over the past several decades, increasing interest has been focused on the use of stories and storytelling in later life. While initially there was inquiry specifically into life review as a retrospective mechanism for making meaning, in later years the many gerontological disciplines have embraced the theoretical, research, and clinical investigation of narrative more broadly. The impact of autobiographical accounts in grappling with loss, dislocation, frailty, and suffering has by now been well established. Thematic consistency has been demonstrated across many cultures and often across disparate life experiences. The recognition that we are a story-needing species has moved from informal elder accounts to qualitative research into how elders reflect on falls, racism, illness, and dementia, for example. The power of stories to guide awareness, enhance empathy, and allow for intentional change is one of its most valued characteristics. The training of professionals working in the aging field, and students studying later life developmental issues, is enhanced by the inclusion of narrative principles and concerns.
In this brief presentation, I will discuss the evolution of the theoretical, research, and clinical employment of life review and narratives in gerontology. The reported benefits and constraints of storytelling in aging, cultural trends in elder accounts, and prominent themes such as generativity, integrity, communion, and agency will be highlighted. The utility of individual and group case analysis in teaching and professional training will be discussed. Through this inquiry, we will come to a richer understanding of the challenges and benefits of including later life stories in guiding those interested in, or working with, aging populations.