Using archive film to improve reminiscence, communication and well-being for people developing dementia

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LIVING MEMORIES

Reminiscence Resources For People Developing Dementia

Brian NorrisWe are Brian Norris,  Director of Digital Services for Care CIC and Leonore Morphet, Director of Greenpark Productions Ltd (est.1938). Together  and hopefully with your support, we would like to use Greenpark’s unique archive of UK social and industrial films, many of them from the 1950s and '60s, to make resources from the archive available to serve as memory triggers for people with memory loss.Leonore Morphet

We have often found  when watching these films that they brought back memories of our own childhood and youth and it occurred to us that the archive could help people who grew up in the UK during and after World War 2, particularly those who are now developing dementia.

Many of you will have a relative, friend or neighbour living with dementia and realise that they can feel very isolated, because recent events cannot be processed by their brains. It makes it difficult for them to communicate with other people. Older memories, however, remain intact.

Accessing those memories with the help of archive film can be the key to unlocking their isolation, connecting them to other people and opening up conversation, be it in a one to one situation like at home or in a group, as in the Memory Cafes that are springing up all over the country, as well as in care homes.Carer and Patient holding hands

Carers in homes are often from a different generation and also possibly from a different cultural background and it can be hard to find common ground . Archive film may not only evoke memories for the person experiencing memory loss, but can also give carers insight into the patients' past, thereby fostering a better understanding.

We have spoken to various health care professionals and they agreed with our assessment that archive film clips could be a very useful tool in reminiscence work and we were granted a small amount of funding allowing us to produce a pilot DVD of memory trigger film clips.

Two women in '50s kitchenWith encouragement from NHS Cornwall and the Memory Café Co-ordinator at Cornwall Rural Community Council, we started testing the pilot DVD with groups of dementia patients and their carers who attend Memory Cafes in Cornwall and have also shown it to a selection of care staff from residential homes and community hospitals.

We were delighted with the responses we witnessed from patients at the Memory Cafes; after viewing the clips they joined into the conversation and started talking about aspects of their own childhood or teenage years. We were told that some patients, who had never previously spoken in a group meeting before, became animated after viewing the film clips and talked about memories from their own past.1950s Milkman and float

These heart-warming responses from patients, carers and health professionals, encouraged us to develop the “Living Memories” series of reminiscence resources, consisting of a DVD and a printed Reminiscence Guide with prompts and suggestions to enable and stimulate reminiscence sessions.some patients, who had never previously spoken in a group meeting before, became animated after seeing our film clips and told stories of their own.

We have created a preview edition of the first DVD and Reminiscence Guide and have given copies to over 30 Memory Cafes and other organisations in Cornwall, including AgeUK, RVS, the Sensory Trust, etc., for them to trial and provide us with feedback.

The Greenpark archive offers tremendous scope for a whole range of different reminiscence subjects. The first two titles we plan to publish are about aspects of home and work in the 1950s and 1960s. Restoring and digitising archive film is an expensive process. So far we have self-funded our work, but to roll out this project across the UK to benefit as many dementia patients as possible and to make the project sustainable, we now really need your support.

We would appreciate your help in raising £15,000 to assist with the project costs, including:

  • Cleaning, restoring and digitising the 35mm & 16mm films we need to use.
  • Researching and developing the final content on the DVDs and in the Reminiscence Guides for at least the first two titles.
  • Editing the content and duplicating DVDs, writing, editing, designing and printing the Reminiscence Guides.
  • Developing, designing and printing the Living Memories memory card game and conversation cards.
  • Market research, marketing, promotion and distribution of the Living Memories titles.

Some Background To Our Living Memories Project

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, in the UK there are currently over 800,000 dementia sufferers, with 670,000 family and friends acting as their primary carers. By 2021 there will be over one million people in the UK with dementia.

Triggering the early memories of dementia patients and older people of life in the 1940s-60s when they were growing up is the purpose of our “Living Memories” project.

Frequently carers are at a loss to know how to engage with a dementia patient, yet it is often possible to stimulate their minds with still and moving images of locations and objects familiar to them from their childhood and teenage years.

The interaction and recall which our “Living Memories” resources will provide may help to break the isolation of people living with memory loss and lead to informative conversations and reminiscences, opening up topics which can be returned to in the future. Such mental activity is beneficial for the patient’s well-being and can ease the stress of the carer too.

Each "Living Memories" DVD will contain 6-8 film clips edited from documentaries, cinema and TV commercials and promotional programmes in the Greenpark archive and produced during those decades.

Each film clip will remind any viewer who grew up in those years of many different aspects of life, objects and personalities who appear in the shots. The scenes will also stimulate many memories of the viewers’ early years, which are also likely to lead to lively discussions.The benefits of our Living Memories reminiscence resources include• The stimulation of the memories of dementia patients, which help to provide new topics for conversation.• Better understanding between patient and carer, who might not be of the same generation and/or cultural background.• Opportunities for patients living at home to reminisce and communicate on different topics with their partner/carer and other family members.• The potential for inter-generational interviews and sharing experiences between young and old.• The opportunity to invite older friends and neighbours to your home or a local community centre for a cup of tea and to watch and talk about our Living Memories reminiscence resources.• The scope for group discussion among older members of the community about the scenes which have been viewed and their memories of events, objects and activities from childhood and other aspects of the post War decades.• Encouraging volunteers to visit residential homes, community hospital wards and other places to meet with the older people and use our reminiscence resources.

Other Ways You May Wish to Help

Should you decide that you are not able to support our project, but would still like to help older people developing dementia here are a few suggestions:• Attend an Alzheimer’s Society course to become a Dementia Friend https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/• Become a volunteer with AgeUK (www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/)• Become a volunteer with Royal Voluntary Service (www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/volunteer)• Visit or contact a local Memory Café or residential care home to see if you may be able to assist in some way.• See if any older people in your local community would welcome a cup of tea and a chat.• Use our regular @memorytrigger Tweets on Twitter which suggest topics to discuss with older family members, friend, neighbours and/or patients.

Thank you very much for your interest.

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