Écrire sa vie!

Recipient of the 2021 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming

May 11, 2022

l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, Montreal, Quebec

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at full strength in Canada and required the isolation of its population, writer and journalist Janette Bertrand, profoundly affected by the fate and isolation of seniors, created a stimulating activity for them to write their memories while leaving a collective imprint of this pivotal time in our history.

To carry out her project, Ms. Bertrand sought the help of the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM) of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, already recognized for its expertise in promoting healthy habits for aging people. The people there quickly made it their mission to put her idea into action. So, the Écrire sa vie! project was developed and then promoted to seniors. To guide them in writing their autobiographies, Ms. Bertrand first posted a series of videos on the Internet and via the MAtv television station. The writing workshops facilitated support for the participants, who were encouraged to consult their loved ones for their research and ask for help from the younger generations for the more difficult technological aspects. Thanks to this project, which required memory, reflection and discussion, many seniors got through the confinement feeling a little less alone.

By the end of the project, more than 1,000 autobiographies were submitted. A second series of videos hosted by Ms. Bertrand were launched, in which she presented excerpts from authors’ stories, grouping them in various themes. In 2020, Écrire sa vie! was recognized by the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City recognized as a significant initiative to include as part of their project, Documentez la pandémie. The museum also acquired some of the seniors’ autobiographies to be kept in their collection for posterity.

UpdateThe project Écrire sa vie !  has inspired a new podcast entitled Écrire à Janette. Congratulations to Madame Bertrand, the Musée de la civilisation, Les radios à roulettes, and the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal on this production.