Reminiscence Therapy: Senior Communities Recreate Real-World 1950s Life to Aid Dementia Patients
A new approach that’s improving quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients – specifically lifting mood and emotions – is reminiscence therapy, a treatment that encourages seniors to recall and share life experiences with sensory triggers like music and photos. Several nursing homes today, however, are taking this approach one step further, creating complete, realistic environments that represent life in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.
For example, the Easton Home in Pennsylvania has created multiple reminiscence-themed areas throughout its dementia wing, including a 1940s-era kitchen (featuring a cast-iron stove and wringer washing machine) and living room (housing a wood-paneled radio that plays era music from a hidden iPod). Residents are encouraged to visit and lounge in these areas with family and friends, and share memories that the surroundings may evoke. The areas also feature helpful conversation prompts adjacent to photos of vintage images, like cars, military, marriage and parenthood.
Reminiscence-themed retirement communities are also gaining popularity internationally, at locations like the UK’s Grove Care community, which features a full 1950s village nicknamed “Memory Lane.” This detailed replica of a 1950s English street includes a traditional local pub, quaint post office, greengrocers, Oxo advertisements on the walls and ration books on the tables. Residents can stroll through the street and remember life during the 1950s, or spend visitation time with family members in the shared spaces of Memory Lane.
Researchers believe that this full immersion in familiar sensory cues can help ease some of the most distressing symptoms of dementia; seeing realistic replicas of items and life from years past can help ease anxiety, agitation, and depression, while also tapping into memories buried in the mind.
Cognitive loss can often lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Helping a dementia patient find ways to continue telling his or her story can help improve self-esteem by allowing them to share who they were and still are. By reconnecting with society – even if it is society of the past – helps them feel that they are not alone.
Whether it is strolling through one of these innovative vintage settings, or simply visiting an old photo album, sensory cues can be a key to reconnecting with your loved one and helping improve his or her life.