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Project shares life stories and combats loneliness

Published: 24 May 2023 at 16:30

People taking part in A Life Written workshop

ARU lecturer spearheads initiative mentoring elderly East Anglian writers

An anthology of written work has been published as part of a project to help combat loneliness amongst older adults. 

A Life Written is an initiative run by the National Centre for Writing and Anglia Ruskin University. The scheme offers weekly creative writing workshops to support over-70s in crafting autobiographical prose, before English and BA Writing and English Literature students at Anglia Ruskin University pen responses.

The publication of the anthology marks the latest chapter in the history of A Life Written, which has now brought together dozens of older people to share their life stories and hone a new creative skill.

While producing high quality writing is the project’s primary goal, its broader social mission has evolved throughout. Many elderly participants in the scheme have not only had their micro-memoirs published but have also made good friends in the process.

Several have even formed a group (naming themselves the ‘Wrinkly Writers’) who meet regularly – independent of the project – to continue their literary development and provide company and support for one another.

Dr Tory Young, Associate Professor of English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University, who devised the scheme in 2020, said:

“My intention for A Life Written - to provide an opportunity for the voices of older people to be heard - has been exceeded. 

“It has made writers out of people who never believed they could be writers, forged lasting writing communities and introduced young people at the start of adulthood to older people who’ve shared the same experiences.

“Above all, it has given groups of people the chance to reflect upon, write and share their life stories.”


Events held at Norwich’s Dragon Hall, home to the National Centre for Writing, have given the budding authors opportunity to publicly read their work and meet the students who wrote responses to their memoirs.

A Life Written participant Leah said:

“The project was a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of like-minded people, at a very interesting stage in our lives. The course gave us the start we needed, and the resulting anthology and launch was a wonderful experience for all involved.

“Perhaps the greatest legacy of the project is that we have continued to meet regularly and to support each other’s writing. A second anthology one day? We wouldn't rule it out...”


Shell, a student who took part in the project, said:

“When applying to take part in A Life Written I had read a few biographies but had placed very little thought into how these were put together and what was required of the author for such writings to be produced. 

“Since meeting with those taking part in the project and having had the opportunity to hear them read their own pieces to an audience, I now begin to understand the personal undertaking that life writing requires. 

“The age difference of participants and students was varied. No matter the difference of age and generation there was a joint connection. Rather than feeling out of touch with one another or lacking understanding, the pieces written and responded helped to bridge any perceived lack of understanding between ages and show that human connection was at the root of all the pieces.”


Discussions with potential funders are already under way to ensure the project is able to return for another instalment.