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29 July 2019

The power of reminiscence therapy

As we get older memories from our teens and early twenties tend to remain most prominent in our minds. Reminiscence activities that encourage people to recall and talk about life in their younger years can prove very enjoyable, and help develop stronger connections with both family and carers.

For people in the early stages of dementia, reminiscence can prove particularly important because, as short term memories start to fade, reminiscence activities can help take them back to a point in their lives when their memories are clearest.

What form do reminiscence activities take?

Reminiscence activities are ones that are designed to trigger memories. They could include anything that might start a conversation between the person taking part and the carer, relative, friend or professional reminiscence therapist introducing the activity.

Some of the most popular activities involve…

  • looking at old photos or archive video footage, (whether personal in nature, of family and friends – or of memorable local or national events, such as the Queen’s coronation)

  • listening to music from a favourite artist or era in the past,

  • examining / using vintage objects of personal significance to the person,

  • smelling evocative scents that could remind someone of past hobbies or work. 

Activities can be carried out in a group setting, or one to one with an individual, and although training can make the session more effective, it isn’t by any means essential.

What is important is that the activity hits on something the person can relate to from their past. Encouraging an Elvis Presley fan to listen to opera isn’t likely to gain much response for instance, but giving someone who used to be a mechanic some old spark plugs or tools to handle may well stimulate valuable recollections. 

What are the benefits of reminiscence?

As reminiscence therapy is practised more widely, there is a growing body of research evidence to suggest that it can be effective in boosting mood, engagement, communication and wellbeing.

Recalling positive memories has the power to make anyone feel happy, and good memories can become an important way to boost your mood. Reminiscence can brighten your day and the good feelings it engenders may even last long after the session has ended.

Activities that stimulate conversation provide a valuable way for family members, friends and/or carers to connect and engage. This can be particularly helpful in dementia care, helping to remind the person with dementia of their identity, improving their sense of self-worth.

Positive effects for people living in residential care 

Some of the most positive benefits have been identified in care home residents, where reminiscence can be a valuable way of maintaining their personal identity when they are separated from the familiar prompts and triggers embedded in their own home. 

For care home staff it provides a welcome opportunity for staff to get to know individuals better, and gain an understanding of the richness and complexity of their lives.

Does reminiscence therapy work for everyone?

As with most activities, some people will be more receptive to sharing their experiences than others, but as long as the memories triggered are happy ones and the person does not get upset, the experience is likely to be a positive one. 


Hoar Cross Care Home is an exclusive residential and nursing care home in a beautiful and tranquil countryside setting at Hoar Cross in Staffordshire. We provide a warm, stimulating and supportive environment for our residents and their families where quality of life is paramount. 

We’d be delighted to show you round our facilities so to arrange a personal guided tour, please just give us a call on 01283 575210.