What is Generation Exchange?
Generation Exchange—a program designed to capture the life stories of older residents of the Greater Kansas City area through conversations with someone from a younger generation—was sparked into being through an invitation from Partners for Livable Communities to participate in City Leaders Institute Aging in Place initiative. Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) responded by partnering with area libraries, senior centers and Parks and Recreation Districts in 2012, and the group chose an arts and culture focus which was narrowed further to personal storytelling that would illuminate the gifts of older people in the region as well as capture their lived wisdom and experiences. In addition to MARC, the organizations collaborating on this project included the Jewish Community Center’s Heritage Center; Johnson County Parks and Recreation District; Mid-Continent Public Library; Johnson County Public Library; and the Kansas City Public Library.
At the center of the early focus of the Generation Exchange project was bringing the generations together. Many older people report feeling isolated and disconnected from those in subsequent generations. The project began with the creation of interview kits that could be checked out from the three participating library systems. Each kit provided all of the tools needed to conduct interviews including the recording equipment, suggested questions for capturing stories focused on memories related to arts and culture, historical events and what life was like in the neighborhoods the storytellers had lived in at different stages of their lives. Suggestions were also provided on how to conduct the interviews in such a way to put the tellers at ease. Those who wished to share their stories with a broader audience were offered the opportunity to upload their recordings to the Generation Exchange website which was housed on the Mid-Continent Library website.
Storytelling was a perfect vehicle for not only connecting older people with those from younger generations, it also ensured that the every-day histories that were in danger of being lost were preserved for future generations. The stories revealed the richness of the Kansas City region’s history and gave older people a chance to share the knowledge and wisdom gained through year’s of living. It also allowed the younger generation to share in that richness, knowing that they were connected in ways that they had not previously had the chance to understand.
The website garnered nearly 40 interviews in the first couple of years of its existence. Each interview gives a written synopsis of the interviewees life including name, date of birth, place of birth and some interesting facts about them. The name and date of birth of the interviewer is also included along with tags indicating the main focus(es) of the interview in regards to the three main focuses of the project as a whole.
While the website and the stories it offers remain available for anyone interested to listen to (and to create new recordings), Generation Exchange continues to evolve and to explore new ways of connecting the generations. And it has found a new home with Arts & AGEing KC. MORE DETAILS TO COME..... 6.28.18