Old films being used to jog the memories of dementia patients

Archive films are being used in Britain to help people with dementia and other memory disorders in a new project.

Films 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 (MHA).

The footage 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.

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.”

Social gerontologist Professor Dianne Willcocks, emeritus professor at York St John University, 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.”

Screen Yorkshire chief executive Sally Joynson said: “Memory Bank is real innovation — it connects our screen heritage to the very people who were there at the time, they have all the memories to share, and these films just provide the trigger to unlock them.”

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 from the 1920s to the 1970s.


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