The Power of the Pen: An Experiential Narrative Gerontology Workshop

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Program Description:

gerontology, a sub-field of aging studies meaning “life as story,” deepens our understanding of how individuals change internally in late life in psychological and spiritual ways. Guided autobiography, life review, legacy writing and reflective writing en plein air are examples of narrative gerontology interventions. This experiential writing workshop will provide research evidence for the psychological and health benefits of reflective writing as well as examples of application in therapeutic or community-based settings. Participants will do “close reading” of a patient’s writing and through several writing prompts experience the power of the pen first hand as a strategy to reduce stress and gain personal insights.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of the seminar, participants in this workshop will be able to:

  • Describe the research evidence for the physical, psychological, and cognitive benefits of narrative gerontology techniques.
  • Evaluate principles and structure of guided autobiography, life review, and legacy writing.
  • Analyze the principles and structure of deep reading of the written narrative of an older adult with primary progressive aphasia
  • Utilize written narrative techniques for patient care and self-care.


8.45 to 9.00 Registration

9:00 to 10:00 am: Provide definition of narrative gerontology & how it is used in healthcare settings. Review the research evidence for the psychological and physical benefits of reflective writing to reduce stress, improve health, and enhance problem-solving.

10:00 to 10:30 Review of a case study of a patient with cognitive decline and deep reading exercise of the patient’s written narrative.

10:30 to 10:45 Break

10:45 to 11:30 viewing of video of an intergenerational writing program followed by discussion

11:30 to 12:15 warm-up writing exercise (“what’s in a name”) and discussion

12:15 to 12:45 pm lunch break

12:45 to 2:00 Writing exercise using guided autobiography writing prompt followed by sharing of writing with group

2:00 to 2:15 break

2:15 to 4:00 pm Third writing exercise using guided autobiography prompt, discussion, Q and A

Bio of Presenter:

Paula Hartman-Stein, Ph.D. is a geropsychologist, educator, consultant, journalist and creative writer. She holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Kent State University and master’s degree from West Virginia University. In addition to 30 years of working in direct care settings, she is a prolific writer, with two edited books, Enhancing Cognitive Fitness in Adults and Innovative Behavioral Healthcare for Older Adults, numerous articles in academic journals, a spiritual poem in the peer-reviewed publication, Soul-Lit, and well over 100 newspaper articles on aging and Medicare issues for The National Psychologist newspaper. Dr. Stein holds academic appointments at the University of Akron and the Integrated primary care certificate program at the U of Massachusetts Medical School. Her interest in writing has led to using narrative techniques as therapeutic interventions and offering workshops to reduce stress for healthcare professionals. She has broadened her promotion of the power of the pen to nature writing workshops as a holistic approach to optimal aging.