Growing Support brings older people’s outdoor stories to life with new interactive tool

25 Jul 2016

In collaboration with Alive! and local care homes, Growing Support has developed and implemented a new outdoor life story tool. Life Story Work is an activity designed to recognise a person’s past, present and future. The activity focuses on people’s experiences of the outdoors and gardens, and can support older people to get the right care for them by helping families and care home staff to understand their experiences to date and their preferences for the future.

The Life Story Work tool gathers information from older people about their lives in relation to being outdoors and gardening. Collecting such information has been shown to promote individualised care, build relationships between care staff and family carers and improve communication. Life Story Work, in its very essence, recognises the value of older people’s lives by recording their experiences and using these to promote a positive image of themselves and their personal history. During the duration of the project, 22 older care homes residents benefitted from life story sessions.

Dale Cranshaw, Director of Growing Support, shares how this idea initiated: 'In Growing Support's therapeutic gardening  sessions we often find that gardening and nature are great for stimulating conversations about people's memories of the outdoors. We developed the outdoor life story tool as a way of formalising some of these topics of conversations that come up around people’s experiences of the garden and outdoors, as well as identifying their preferences for future outdoor experiences.’

He also highlighted the need for outdoor activities in residential care homes, and how this tool could have an impact in the care older people in residential care homes receive: ‘The Department of Health found that 50% of older people in residential care never go outside. We hope that this tool will help practitioners working with older people in care to ensure they consider people's outdoor as well as their indoor needs and preferences.’

Volunteers working with Life Story Work Tool at Care home


The development of this new outdoor life story tool was funded by Bristol Ageing Better, as part of our Group Work and Peer Support theme, and involved practitioners, care staff, and Growing Support staff and volunteers.

Julia Norman, Growing Support volunteer, talked about her experience with the project: ‘I think it was an opportunity for them [care home residents] to think about their life and share experiences and maybe recall things that they hadn’t thought about for some time. Anything that is going to stimulate people’s memory is very positive, [using the tool] was an opportunity to talk to people 1:1 which was very rewarding.’

Growing Support’s tool provides guidelines for volunteers, families and care home staff, as well as providing questions and information to residents about the activity that is about to take place. The tool uses iPads and Tangible Memories, which is an app developed by the University of Bristol, which allows people to tell meaningful stories, and listen back to them in easy and accessible ways. It has been designed particularly with older people and their Carers and families in mind, but can be used by anyone. The tool also provides advice in case technology is not available or if the person working with the tool if not confident using the app.

Growing Support would like to make this tool available to the Bristol Ageing Better partnership.

Click here to download Outdoor Life Story Work

Click here for more information about Tangible Memories App by The University of Bristol

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