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A Trip Down Memory Lane- the benefits of reminiscing in aged care

July 24, 2019
Reminiscence can be a powerful tool when working in aged care. There are many positive benefits to reminiscence and various activities that can be utilised to recall memories. By reminiscing, it can help the elderly to find meaning, form friendships and in some instances can help to gain closure.

What is reminiscence?

Reminiscence, sometimes described as “random remembering”, is the joyful recollection of people, experiences, and relationships from the past. This is often done through storytelling, daydreaming, and nostalgia.

Anyone who has lived to a certain age will indulge in reminiscence at one point, like remembering the movie you watched on your 10th birthday, getting your first car, or the dress your wife wore the day you proposed.

As we advance into old age, reminiscence takes on more significance. Experts who have studied aging and memory believe that seniors who were able to look back on life events in all their highs and lows enjoyed a greater deal of satisfaction.

For the American Psychological Association (APA), reminiscence in the form of oral and/or written histories is used in therapy to improve psychological well-being.  Psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers have used it to help the elderly cope with some of the challenges that come with old age.

Although it is often used interchangeably with “life review”, some practitioners differentiate between the two.

While reminiscence is the spontaneous, passive, and simple recollection of memories, life review is a more structured process that revolves around certain life themes relating to the participant’s childhood, family life, and career, just to name a few.

Why revisit the past?

There are many benefits to reminiscing, including:

  •  Closure – Reminiscence allows individuals in aged care to look back on past conflicts with the benefit of hindsight, maturity, forgiveness, and understanding, allowing them to move forward and live in the present.
  • Meaning – People tell stories to create meaning. Reminiscence helps the elderly recreate their lives’ meaning by connecting the past with the present. It’s also a way for them to reflect on their accomplishments so that they develop a deeper appreciation for what they have done in their lives.
  • Quality of life – Those who reminisce have been shown to have a better outlook on life. Remembering and sharing positive memories not only lifts their mood and self-esteem, it also eases depression. It offers relief to seniors who are less mobile, as it helps them go back to a time when they were more physically active.
  • Communication – As residents engage in animated conversations about the past, memories and emotions are ignited, increasing their ability to communicate. It also allows them to communicate in ways that are meaningful and more personal to them.
  • Connection – Reminiscing can be done in groups, helping residents find common interests and experiences, and gives them opportunities to connect meaningfully with new people.
  • Family history – It helps preserve memories that can be passed down from one generation to another, forging family histories.

Reminiscing activity ideas

Reminiscing can be done one-on-one, within groups, or within families. Having a reminiscence group in a nursing home enables the elderly to start friendships with those in their group and gives them other people to confide in. The spontaneous and unstructured quality of reminiscence also puts them at ease, encouraging them to share more of their recollections in a warm and lively setting.

These ideas can help you get started:

  • Guessing games – Let participants guess the name of an object, place, or famous personality by giving them clues.
  • Famous faces – Show them photos of famous people from past decades to jog their memory and spark conversation.
  • Songs from the past – Bring in an old turntable, play popular songs from their era, and have them guess the title and the artist.
  • Famous movie quotes – Read out popular quotes from old movies and have them guess the title.
  • Games they played as kids – Describe popular kids’ games and toys from their era and have them guess what it is.
  • Remembering the year – Every year and decade has its fads, cultural movements, and historic events. Choose a year or decade, and encourage the participants to share meaningful anecdotes from that time in history.

Through our varied lifestyle program, Embracia plans meaningful and engaging activities for their residents. Often these activities involve reminiscence and evoke a lot of warm and happy memories for our residents.

If you would like to learn more about our program, Contact Embracia today or book a tour and we will happily show you what we are all about.

We provide exceptional aged care in an intimate community that feels like home.