Evaluating reminiscence session. The activities
This chapter tries to summarize the types of activities that
can be applied and to suggest various topics for reminiscence
session, like for example:
1. Answering a certain question. Each participant is asked
to answer a certain question. This method is an impediment for
any monopolization of the conversation and simultaneously encourages
shy participants to be a part of the talk. Even individuals
who try to avoid talking will have the chance to give a concise,
even monosyllabic answer. For example, the leader of the group
may ask participants to say where they studied during childhood,
what their favorite dish used to be back then or what they mostly
2. Drawings and collages. Drawing is something elderly people,
just like children, seem to appreciate and enjoy a lot. This
also offers a communication method for shy, lonely participants
who cannot put into words what they want to talk about. The
esthetic quality of the drawings is the least important in this
process; what matters most is the memories it suggests, thus
helping the reminiscence process.
There are two main methods to do this type of activity:
a) First of all, participants can be asked to draw or
paint a place or a scene from their past and to depict it
with as many details as they can remember.
b) For individuals
who cannot draw or whose remembering process is inhibited
by this requirement, the monitor will be the one doing the
drawing, according to that person’s indications. In this
case, the patient is asked how he best whishes his story
to be depicted in a drawing.
The monitor should find out as many details as possible,
in order to make the drawing realistic and according to the
patient’s story. Personal creativity of the monitor isn’t an
issue here and should be avoided, as well as what he/she thinks
that the drawing should depict.
Here are some topics that could be offered as a starting
point for these drawings:
- A specific room they have lived in
- A specific
street that bares a lot of memories
- The garden of the
- The setting of their childhood holidays
Type of clothing they used to wear in those ages during
school days, holidays and celebrations
- Everyday instruments
in the kitchen.
When involved in group activities, each participant will
be asked to make suggestions about the paintings, for example
what flowers and plants we may have in the garden drawing. At
the end of the drawing session, everybody’s contribution will
be highlighted and praised, especially if the drawing sessions
will continue during the next meeting.
This kind of activity can be used individually or for the
whole group. When used in a group environment, each participant
is challenged to make suggestions about what elements the drawings
may include, each individual participating with a certain category
of elements to be added to the drawing. Each person’s contribution
will be marked and highlighted at the end.
In case of a more complex drawing task or a collage, there
are various materials that can be used in order to help participants
express better: newspaper pieces, flowers, dry plants, silk,
velvet, wool, etc. This can be done over several weeks, after
a number of reminiscence activities.
3. Using various objects. Old, traditional or even modern
objects are often very useful for a variation of reminiscence
stimulation techniques, thus being highly recommended in reminiscence
group activities. It is very important to set up each Reminiscence
Center with a collection of such objects, which can often add
energy and interest to reminiscence activities. There are more
than one ways to use such objects in group activities:
a) Depending on the chosen theme for a particular meeting,
the monitor can gather and present specific objects and ask
the participants to describe them and explain how they are used.
b) The objects can be exhibited on a table in the center
of the room, so that everybody can see and recognize them
c) A very productive way to start a reminiscence session
consists of asking each participant to chose an object from
the ones exhibited and tell the audience what memories it suggests,
what ideas it brings back to him/ her.
4. Making up memories lists Also a very successful and appreciated
activity is when the reminiscence group is asked to make up
a list including everything they can remember or think about
concerning a certain given topic or idea. There should be a
flip-chart ready, to note all ideas that come up. After that
we can start building a conversation on the basis of every stimulating
word that came up among the mentioned ideas on the flip chart.
For example, group members can be asked to talk about the
games they used to know and play during childhood. After making
up a list with all the games mentioned by the participants,
each game can be detailed and discussed. Suggestions for making
up such a list include: what used to be sold at the grocery’s,
what objects children used to take to school, what lunch they
5. Music. Music is an excellent stimulus for bringing back
memories. Each Reminiscence Center ought to have a collection
of various old music records. Before playing these CD’s or disks
it is recommended to test the group’s preferences, in order
to find out whether they like popular music, jazz, opera, etc
Depending on the daily topic, we can chose an appropriate musical
background. If we are going to talk about „what it was like
when we were young and flirting”, the best music to be played
would be the one that can bring back memories about youth, love,
first love, etc.
6. Walking. Going out may be a very exciting and pleasant
activity, especially for people who cannot go out a lot and
spend most of their time at home. Participants at reminiscence
groups are encouraged to comment, ask and answer during these
walks, that is, to be active and interact. Potential destinations
of these walks:
a) familiar places: school, former house of somebody
cinema, a town plaza, the market, sweets shops.
museums – art, history, town museum, etc.
7. Stories. The group monitor can start telling a story and
then stop, challenging the participants to make a contribution,
one at a time, to the end of the story. This can be both entertaining
and fun, especially when somebody doesn’t remember exactly some
details of a tale and starts „improving” it and adding personal
8. Practical activities. These are generally highly appreciated,
especially by elderly people participating in reminiscence groups,
and also highly useful and recommended for people suffering
from speech disorders. Such activities can be:
a) Manual washing of various objects.
Cooking (with all the steps required), gardening, knitting,
etc. The group can come up with new recipes or share old
forgotten ones, which can be extremely interesting for all
age and social groups.
These kind of activities, no matter how simple and common
they might look, can be of great help to elderly patients, as
these can regain the feeling that they can be useful, that somebody
needs they’re opinion and knowledge about a specific thing.
At home, these people are generally less and less asked to help,
to be useful, due to their diminishing manual capacity and,
often, their memory deficiencies that can be an obstacle to
the influence of any daily activity they perform.
9. Then and now. There are many methods to establish a connection
between the past and the present. Each monitor can put an end
to a reminiscence session by saying: „ here we have an ironing
device that our grandmothers used to heat with heated coal.
Today we use modern devices that work with electric energy”.
There can be talks about advantages and disadvantages of both
instruments. The discussion can also be based on a comparison
of old and modern pictures on the discussed topic.
10. Taste, smell and touch. These senses are highly used
during reminiscence meetings. Each Center should also have a
collection of various smells, aromas, textures and materials
(natural and synthetic ones), typical, recognizable medical
substances (menthol, for example), cleaning substances, objects
bearing specific cultural meanings. Group members are shown
these material stimuli and allowed to have a closer look, then
being asked to say what memories these objects bring back.
11. Pictures. Whether photographs, old magazines, drawings
of book illustrations, pictures can have a high positive impact
on reminiscence group members. Each participant can be asked
to bring a personal photo, maybe from various stages of his/her
life, and then comment them. Each picture hides a story that
can be of great interest to the group.