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Reminiscence: Reflecting on Life and Yesteryears

Reminiscing is the act of thinking about joyous and notable memories. It can be effective for those with good memory recall and those who have cognitive concerns. For those with dementia, reminiscing can reduce symptoms of depression (1). Another study found that when reminiscence activities were personalized they were able to keep focused longer than generic activities (2). It is also important to be sensitive during these activities as sometimes negative memories can come up or individuals can become frustrated when they can't remember something related to a prompt (1).

Here is a list of activities you could do with your residents:

  • Looking at a shopping list of what things cost “back then” vs now

  • Flipping through personal photo albums (if they don’t have one already, ask their family to bring some photos and make an album as an activity)

  • Create a recipe book of all the residents favorite meal or family specialty

  • Throw around a beach ball with questions provoking memories on it and whatever your right thumb lands on you answer the question (ex. What was your favorite family tradition, what was your first job, what did you do for fun as a kid?)

  • Watch YouTube videos of travel in your nearby city or where your residents grew up

  • Visit residents old homes via Google Earth

  • Host a show and tell where each resident brings a sentimental item to share a story about

  • Host a memoir writing group. Each week provide the group with different writing prompts to evoke memories. Here is a list of prompts.

  • Create a smelling/tasting menu of different scents or tastes that might evoke interesting memories (fresh baked cookies, peppermint, fresh flowers, cinnamon pine cones, movie theatre style popcorn etc)

  • Listen to songs from different decades and compare the styles. What shaped music from that era?

  • Watch old hollywood films. Discuss the different actors and how it differs from modern movies.

  • Bring in vintage household items and compare who had what

  • Play the game “Never Have I Ever

  • Get together with a group of younger folks (middle school/high school age) and compare what life is like growing up today vs when your residents were growing up. Reminiscing with younger people can give residents a sense of pride and improved feelings of self-worth (3).

What other reminiscing activities do you do at your community? Share in the comments!

Sources on benefits of Reminiscence:

  1. Chao, S.-Y., Liu, H.-Y., Wu, C.-Y., Jin, S.-F., Chu, T.-L., Huang, T.-S., & Clark, M. J. (2006). The Effects of Group Reminiscence Therapy on Depression, Self Esteem, and Life Satisfaction of Elderly Nursing Home Residents. Journal of Nursing Research, 14(1), 36–45.

  2. Yasuda, K., Kuwabara, K., Kuwahara, N., Abe, S., & Tetsutani, N. (2009). Effectiveness of personalised reminiscence photo videos for individuals with dementia. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 19(4), 603–619.

  3. Underwood, H. L., & Dorfman, L. T. (2006). A View from the Other Side. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 4(2), 43–60.

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