by Beth Arsenault
Bill Randall, a professor of gerontology at Saint Thomas University, has a real passion for storytelling – so much so that he brings his love of narrative to the academic sphere.
Growing up in Harvey Station, he spent many afternoons listening to his father, a United Church of Canada minister with a real knack for story-telling, turn the most benign circumstance into an engrossing yarn that grabs the attention and imaginations of young and old alike.
After graduating, Bill went off to college in pursuit of higher education. He tried his hand at graduate studies but felt he needed more life experience to do his studies justice. He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and entered parish ministry. After ten years of serving and listening to stories told by the people living in various Canadian towns, he decided to return to his story-listening roots and pursued a doctorate in narrative studies. His life experiences all greatly assisted in shaping his main argument: human beings don’t just have stories or the ability to tell them, but rather we are stories.
“There are certain narratives we like to tell about ourselves,” says Bill while sipping a Tim Horton’s coffee. “It’s in their retelling that we fell connected, uplifted, stronger, and have a better send of Self.”
Open to opportunities and collaborations, Bill found his way back to New Brunswick as Saint Thomas’ visiting chair in gerontology. What started out as a 4-month residency, eventually turned into a full-time position to which Bill continues to explore his love of narrative from the gerontology perspective.
Narrative gerontology is best understood as lens through which to view the aging process; a unique way of seeing life as story and what aging involves.”
Narrative Care, an important facet of the aging journey, is one very important way that healthcare and long term care professionals can administer person-centred care to seniors visiting clinics or residing in nursing homes. Those who attentively listen can learn much about those in their care through the stories they tell.
“Narrative care is so important because our stories shape our identity, values, briefs, and our relationships with other,” continues Bill. “Our stories are what make us fully human.”
It’s through our personal stories that we make sense of our unique and particular path through life. As such, narrative care is the heart from which all other types of care (dietary, medical, physical) stem, as it honours the complexity of our stories, which in turn provide meaning and make us who we are.
*Interested in learning more? Bill is more than happy to chat about narrative activities. You can also listen to him on CBC Ideas podcast “Aging by the Book”. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Arsenault, BScF, BA
Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care / Collectif pour le vieillissement en santé et soins