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San Francisco non-profit collects senior oral histories to combat loneliness

Mary Franklin Harvin
My Life, My Stories found Brittany Bare with participating senior Jose.

According to a study released this spring by San Francisco’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, almost 30% of San Francisco residents will be age 60 or older by 2030. And almost 30% of seniors are living alone.
San Francisco resident, Brittany Bare, founded the nonprofit My Life My Stories to help engage this growing population of seniors—especially those living on their own. Through partnerships with the Bayview Senior Center, Mercy Housing, the San Francisco Senior Center, and Openhouse SF, Brittany is preserving senior voices across the spectrum of life experience and demographics. She’s building an archive of oral histories as diverse as San Francisco’s senior community.

My Life, My Stories Founder and Executive Director Brittany Bare explains why the work My Life, My Stories does is important and the challenges and rewards she’s experienced running it.

BRITTANY BARE: “So I was at one of the bigger nursing homes here, independent living facilities and we put a newsletter out, no one responded and so I got the permission to kind of just walk around and visit, you know, the common areas or the kitchen and kind of introduced myself. I explained the process of what we do, which is: we transcribe your stories, edit them, put them into memoirs, like hard copy memoirs, which you can give to your friends or family to share, keep, pass along whatever you want to do. It's, it's up to you. It's just for free.”

“And, this one particular woman - I came up to her in the kitchen and she was eating alone. After I explained to her what I did and that I want to get to know her, she's like, “well, I don't have anyone to give these stories too. What would I do with these books?” And I can't remember what I said, but that was really upsetting to me and I just realized that there's a lot of lonely people out there. And this might be just one small way I can help affect the life of someone who doesn't have any visitors, who doesn't speak to anyone during the day.”

“So there's a two-pronged mission: it's preserving history, preserving your life, your family history, family memories, and then also providing some connection to someone you may not ever usually speak to. And in return, I get to learn a lot about other people's lives and it's been an amazing experience.”

You can contact Brittany Bare at brittany@mylifemystories.org or at (510) 671-5875. To find out how you or someone you know can get involved check out My Life, My Stories.
To find out how you or someone you know can get involved with the project, you can reach her at brittany@mylifemystories.org.

My Life, My Stories is hosting a live event at 7pm on November 11th at Adobe Books. Seniors will have a public platform to share their memories and stories with audience members. The evening's theme is focused around the question, "What brought you to San Francisco?"

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.