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Better With Age: Stories are meant to be shared

My name is Paul Olaiya and I am a 2019/20 MSc Entrepreneurship graduate from the UCL School of Management.

I created Better With Age, a reflective storytelling card deck to inspire more authentic autobiographical storytelling, relationship building, and meaningful conversations between generations (See pictures below).

Here’s an animated explainer video:

Better With Age Christmas 2020: Stories are meant to be shared (Video).

 In coming across the amazing work being done by the Age Innovation Hub in encouraging honest and open dialogue surrounding the challenges faced in ageing healthily, and how that can inform the development of future innovative solutions in the UCL community, I felt encouraged to share my own journey and inspiration here as I work to build products with a similar mission of stimulating authentic, open, and meaningful conversations.

The Beginning:

This whole journey was inspired by my family’s experience with my late Grandfather in his final months. After suddenly falling ill early in 2014 my family brought him over here to stay with us as we attempted to nurse him back to health. His decline in health was a wakeup call for all of us as he had always been such a strong lively figure. We all began to worry/understand that these could be his last few days/weeks/months and there was a strong urge for a lot of us to try and learn more about and document his life and his story so that we would have that piece of him after he passed away, something that we could hold on to and share with the next generations that may not get the chance to meet him. I recall some family members writing notes in a notebook, others typing and myself even recording him speaking. He passed away a few months later and that experience left me with a desire to do something to support the older generations.

That opportunity came 4 years later in my undergraduate degree. For a social entrepreneurship module, we were asked to choose an area that needed some sort of intervention and I came up with an idea to try and help solve problems related to older adults and their loved ones.

A few years prior, I had run a personal blog that I had converted into book format, and after seeing how easy that process was, I saw an opportunity to bring that process to older adults and their families to make it easier for more people to document their valuable life stories and memories. I wanted to create an online platform that would take the user through the whole memoir creation process. The belief behind it was that if more people were given the ability to document their life story, more would do it and their loved ones and next generations would have their story to remember them by after they pass away. The hope was to create something that would have made the process easier for my own family back in 2014. I worked on the project with a few classmates over the next few months and once university ended, I decided I wanted to continue. 

Out of university, not knowing too much about technology and not having too many resources  I decided to pivot the idea into something I could manage.  Instead of an online tech platform, I decided it would be easier to switch to a physical product – a kit of different resources, for people like my family that were creating memoirs themselves, to support them along that journey.  

 I broke down the process into 5 steps:

 1.      Memory recollection

2.      Documentation of stories

3.      Organization/Editing

4.      Publishing

5.      Delivery

This felt like a lot to focus on at once, so I narrowed my attention down to one area. – Memory Recollection. I would only focus on this for the time being, and use the experience gained to then build out the bigger kit.

I thought it would be helpful to approach this topic through a more familiar and engaging format, and that is why I thought a card deck might do the trick. Filled with question prompts, organised into specific sections that directly provided a holistic picture of who that person was. As I delved into the creation of the product I met a wide range of people along the way - children and grandchildren of various ages (even up until their 50s and 60s) and cultures, game designers, graphic designers, care professionals, volunteers, charities, and more. That journey helped shape the product I was creating and shed a light on other problems that existed amongst the people I was trying to create for.

⁃        The challenges faced by people with dementia and their loved ones

⁃        The immense problem of loneliness and isolation amongst the older generations

⁃        The universal human desire to be able to connect better with others.

⁃        A fear of being forgotten.

 This helped me take the product from just a resource to help with creating memoirs, to a card deck focused on building relationships through reflection and storytelling. People didn’t just want to connect with a loved one after they passed away. They wanted to hear these stories today.


 After a number of prototypes, testing and many conversations. I was able to launch the first edition of the product in August 2020 with a fraction of the profit from each sale of the initial batch going to various charities supporting older adults in the UK such as Dementia UK, Reengage, The Careworkers Charity UK.  In the first 3 months, I also donated 15+ card decks to some care homes across the country.  It is now available on Amazon and you can find the website here. It has been wonderful to get the product out to the public and get some initial feedback on the experience. 

What’s next?

I hope to encourage more people to share their valuable stories in a wide range of areas. Both in the context of older adults, through my own work and collaborations. and also in a broader sense. I aim to improve my current product and build more!

I am also very excited to begin building a relationship with the Age Innovation Hub and the community in creating more opportunities to support the ageing population.

My Dissertation: Preserving Stories.

 Between May and September 2020, my postgraduate dissertation allowed me to revisit the original focus of creating a service that could support more people in documenting their life stories and that of their loved ones. With the aim of targeting the pain of losing someone and their life story with them. l delved into how I might go about designing that solution. You can see an early prototype landing page explaining the idea here. Following the submission of my dissertation, I spent the following months on the Kickstart Global Accelerator program, which provided me with valuable resources, learning and mentors to begin the process of turning my research into a startup opportunity. I am currently completing a course in User Experience Design which will further support the work being done. I hope to encourage more people to document their stories for generations to come.

Thank you for reading!

 Feel free to get in touch!  

edited on Mar 10, 2021 by Paul Olaiya
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