Agora Association
First reminiscence center in romania



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What reminiscence is?


Reminiscence sessions

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Asociatia Agora - Primul centru de reminiscente din Romania

Reminiscence centers


What reminiscence is and how to run a reminiscence group
Coordonating reminiscence sessions
Confidentiality and planning reminiscence sessions
Evaluating reminiscence sessions
Advantages for beneficiaries
Advantages for take-carers
Examples of themes



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 enjoyed doing.

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 grandparents
    - 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 had, etc.

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
    b) cinema, a town plaza, the market, sweets shops.
    c) various 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 elements..

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.
    b) Polishing.
    c) 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.











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