From donkey rides to maypoles: Archive films help to revive memories in dementia patients
Experts say reminiscence therapy 'renews a person's sense of identity'
15:04 GMT, 17 May 2012
Old films are being used to help people with dementia recover some of their forgotten past.
Footage housed at the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) have been carefully selected for the “Memory Bank” initiative in collaboration with experts from Age UK, the Alzheimer's Society and Methodist Homes for the Aged.
It is mainly from home movie collections held by the YFA and features familiar subjects such as holidays, sports, school days and working life. It follows an 18-month research project.
Playground of the past: Children play with hula hoops in the 1960s
Great British Summer: A donkey ride at Blackpool
Organisers of the study said the films promoted conversations with the participants on everything from knitted bathing costumes, free school milk and 1960s fashion mistakes through to favourite fireworks and clocking on at work.
YFA director Sue Howard said one Memory Bank user in the study said: 'It's like the years peeling back – the memories are all still there, it just needs a trigger.'
Ms Howard said: 'Memory Bank is about opening up our collections to a huge range of older people, many of whom face a number of age-related challenges, and who often have very few opportunities to see and enjoy films such as these.
'Reminiscence therapy and memory work play an invaluable role in improving a sense of personal identity and wellbeing, and stimulating communication and sociability.
'Memory Bank is a unique proposition – it uses films taken largely from our home movie collections, which are a fantastic visual record of everyday life over the decades. It is these films that trigger all of our collective memories.'
Time-honoured tradition: Dancing around the May Pole to welcome spring
Social gerontologist Professor Dianne Willcocks said: 'Memory Bank offers older people a compelling and fun tool to reclaim their lived past – and to share it with family, friends and carers alike. It works both for those living with dementia and for those simply living with rich memories.'
Memory Bank packs have been developed with a user guide, film notes, discussion ideas, suggestions for activities, guidance on starting a memory box and a “Life and Times” section spanning the changes over the decades from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The project has been supported by the Screen Heritage UK Programme.