VFOA United States

Wisdom of the Elders

Wisdom of the Elders is an award-winning series of autobiography production workshops conducted in partnership with municipal and community collaborators in the City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 

The Wisdom of the Elders (WOE) began in 2012. The fundamental goal of the undertaking was to determine whether and how autobiography production can enhance and provide valuable data about African American seniors’ mental health, past and present. Another goal, one rooted in the mission and methods of the Principal Investigator’s Voices from Our America public humanities project, was to determine whether and how project partners could use the findings from WOE, particularly those about resilience and strategies for coping with challenging situations, as the basis for new curricula and educational programs for youth.  

The workshops, along with administration of the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System health survey pre and post workshop series, semi-structured interviews with participants, and five public exhibits, constituted the core of The Wisdom of the Elders: Improving Mental Health with Life Lessons from and for African American Seniors (WOE) —a community-engaged health research study initiated with a mini-grant from the Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core and continued thanks to cash and in kind donations from the collaborators as well as from the Department of English and the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Office at Vanderbilt University. The Wisdom of the Elders (WOE), including its resilience focus, was the brainchild of Ifeoma K. Nwankwo, Ph.D.