A Board Game that Helps Families Learn How Their Aging Loved Ones Want To Be Remembered

Featured photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

We all leave a legacy upon death. Some legacies we know, others we desire, and still others will happen without us ever knowing. Despite growing up in families and keeping in touch with siblings, parents, etc, it is surprising how little we know about what matters most to those closest to us. This is what Dr. Tom Meuser’s research on legacy beliefs show: No matter how well you think you know your older parent, there’s probably a lot more you could know. This is the genesis for Family Get Together (FGT), an intergenerational board game on what matters most in life.

In fall of 2018, a team of MSW students joined Meuser to help design a board game that utilizes narrative life story interviewing techniques to facilitate multigenerational conversation on meaningful yet sometimes challenging subject matter, particularly around the end of life.  Read UNE article HERE

The prototype of the game was recently featured on WCSHWGMEand WMTW.

Original prototype designed and created by MSW students

The game explores the idea of choice while on a path to a singular destination that was chosen. The questions asked throughout the game are open ended and derived from narrative techniques and research.   “Fun activities and humor are sprinkled throughout as well,” Amanda Basso, MSW ’19 shares, “you know, to defuse tension and keep things light too.  The goal of this game is to have those difficult conversations but in a way that is enjoyable, in which everyone is heard.”

Amanda first heard about the project when she met with Dr. Meuser about a separate project she was doing as part of her field placement at Creative Work Systems. She was developing an assessment tool for aging individuals with disabilities at high risk for developing dementia.  In addition to providing insight for her field project,  Dr. Meuser also introduced her to his legacy work and the board game project. She became really invested however, when she heard him speak at a TRIAD conference in more detail about the importance of legacy and the board game, in particular (conference was part of UNE’s School of Social Work Training in Aging and Diversity Project that funds $10,000 stipends to participating students )   From here, Amanda got together with a few other interested TRIAD students, Corey Carmichael and Joseph Kijewski, and they got to work developing the original prototype of “Family Get Together ™”  Students did trial runs with their families over the holidays and adapted the design based on results. 

“It was really fun to play the game with my family” Corey shares, “it sparked rich discussions and provided an opportunity to share stories, some of which I hadn’t heard before.  There were laughs and, at times, teary eyes.  My family is close, and playing the game helped us break out of our typical patterns and delve into new territory of conversation, which was exciting.”

WCSH’s Lindsey Mills interviews UNE MSW student Corey Carmichael

Meuser describes the game as one organized around a shared journey to a family reunion, designed for multigenerational family groups, FGT can also be played among friends and even strangers.  “What matters is the talking, sharing and mutual enjoyment of the game” he says.

Players follow paths of different colored tiles. The color corresponds to a question or activity. Some are for the player who landed there, others involve the whole group. You never know if you will be asked your favorite food or what you believe about death, love, etc. The fun is in the discovery!

FTG is an evidence-based game. It comes from Dr. Meuser’s dozen years of teaching life story interviewing, and more recent research on legacy beliefs across generations. His team of MSW students and his faculty collaborator, Dr. Regi Robnett, are now preparing to validate the game in research with family groups. They are currently seeking volunteers for the project: three generation groups of 4-6 to play the game, to be filmed doing it, and then to talk about the experience after.  See flyer below for project details and learn how YOU can become a volunteer.

FGT Recruitment Flyer.png

Sign up to volunteer HERE 

The initial validation study will lead to a grant application to do further work on the game and to commercialize it for distribution to families, long-term care communities, hospices, hospitals, etc, across the country and beyond.

“It is my hope  that this game will help facilitate families in having difficult conversations, such as end of life, while also learning more and enjoying each others company,” Amanda shares.   “I  believe this can be a good therapeutic tool in general too, one I hope to use in my future practice working with aging populations and those who have terminal illnesses who desire to genuinely share their stories with their loved ones.” 

For more information or questions about the project, please contact Amanda Basso at abasso@une.edu