VFOA United States

Wisdom of the Elders

Created in 2012, Wisdom of the Elders (WOE) is an award-winning series of autobiography production workshops conducted in partnership with municipal and community collaborators in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The foundational goal of Wisdom of the Elders was to determine whether and how autobiography production can provide valuable data about African American seniors’ mental health. Another goal was to determine whether project partners could use the findings from WOE–particularly those about resilience–to identify strategies for coping with challenging situations, using the collected data as the basis for new curricula and youth education programs.

Along with the administration of the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System pre- and post-workshop health surveys, semi-structured participant interviews, and five public exhibits, these workshops constituted the core of The Wisdom of the Elders: Improving Mental Health With Life Lessons for African American Seniors.

WOE also oversaw a community-engaged health research study that began with a mini-grant from the Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core. It continued thanks to cash and in-kind donations from collaborators as well as the Department of English and the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Office at Vanderbilt University.

The Wisdom of the Elders (WOE) and its focus on resilience was the brainchild of Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo, Ph.D. This project was funded in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.