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Life Review Project

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UMSL Life Review Project

The UMSL Life Review Project is a service learning effort of Dr. Tom Meuser and the Gerontology Program. Students are paired with local adult volunteers (aged 60+) to tell their life stories on camera. Participation is free of charge, and those interviewed - we call them "reviewers" - receive edited Keepsake DVDs to share with family and friends. The Project has interviewed over 300 adults since 2007.

Nothing is more quintessentially human than our capacity to remember and reflect. We understand ourselves as individuals and members of society by the events and happenings of our lives. Recall of the past allows for a sense of personal and collective continuity, as well as an opportunity to bring new perspectives to the present and future.

As dynamic beings, we are constantly adapting to life's challenges and striving for immediate and longer-term goals. Such adaptation and striving occurs against the backdrop reality of death, the natural endpoint for bodily existence. With advancing age, many of us feel compelled to understand the threads of our life story, to place past triumphs and failures into perspective, and to leave something tangible for our families and communities.

The UMSL Life Review Project is an educational and community outreach effort sponsored by the Gerontology Program and managed through volunteer and student effort. It is part of larger national and international trends to honor older adults and their life stories, whether personally and/or historically significant.

The Project was initiated in 2007 with formation of a new graduate course, entitled Interviewing Older Adults & Life Review (GER 6130, 3 credits). This course combines training in life review interviewing with the development of video editing and production skills. Students are assigned to interview senior adult volunteers who tell their life stories on camera and for educational purposes. Students edit these stories into “Keepsake” DVDs that are presented to each volunteer as a token of appreciation. Many ask for multiple copies to give to family members. GER 6130 is offered each Spring and open for enrollment by community professionals.

Our life review interviews are more than mere listing of life events and accomplishments. Rather, our interviews strive to be integrative for the individual. We ask about life's up and downs, important mentors, life lessons, cherished values, wisdom to pass down, and beliefs about death. Our goal is to build self-awareness, understanding and acceptance. While facts are important to build the stafford of a life story, it is the discussion of life lessons and beliefs that give a life review intervention its transformative and transmissive power.

This website includes information about the project, materials for review, and sample video clips. See the Get Involved page to learn how to volunteer and otherwise benefit from the Project. Thank you.

Tom Meuser, PhD                                            VIEW a Promotional Video about the Project
Clinical Psychologist
Director, Gerontology Graduate Program
Coordinator, UMSL Life Review Project                VIEW an Overview Lecture on Life Review

meusert@umsl.edu or 314-516-5421

Tom Meuser

Tom Meuser, PhD
Founder & Project Coordinator

"Life review is an intentional looking back on one’s life story to bring understanding and meaning to the present... Those engaged in a form of life review interpret and reframe the past based on a lifetime of experiences and wisdom... I strive to model a humanistic, psycho-educational approach to life review with broad applicability across individuals, situations, and practice settings. Life review is not rocket science, but there is an art to doing it well. It is also important to recognize boundaries between supportive care and clinical intervention, especially for unlicensed professionals."       (Meuser, 2011)