BBC Reminiscence Archive could help dementia sufferers

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Looking at photos and video or listening to music can be a great help for people with dementia when it comes to trying to access forgotten memories.

A family photo, newspaper clipping or an old favourite song can trigger treasured memories and stimulate conversation, which in turn can improve a person with dementia’s relationship with their families and carers and help improve their quality of life.

You can read our blogs here on how music can help dementia and how photos can help dementia here.

While family photos and old songs can be a great help, having access to a wider variety of material is tricky, which is why the BBC’s newly updated Reminiscence Archive is a great tool for our service users and other dementia sufferers and their families.

A person with dementia or a carer/friend or family member can access the Reminiscence Archive on a computer, laptop or tablet. The website will ask them to select a theme such as sport or events or select a decade and whether they would like to see an image, hear audio or see video content.

The website will generate a random selection of images/audio clips or video content depending on your choices and provide information about what is being shown. For example, select 1940s, image and the BBC shows a picture of a twenty-year-old London girl as she leaves home to go to her wartime job in a small arms munitions factory in the midlands. For a dementia sufferer, this might trigger memories of their own wartime jobs, the clothes they wore at the time and the people they met.

The results are randomised on each visit, however items can be ‘favourited’ to again return to later.

The archive can keep a person with dementia occupied for hours. Jake Berger, Product Manager in BBC Archive Development, held focus groups when first launching the archive and found that the material really did trigger memories and reminiscence in participants, sparking conversations and enhancing relationships between people with dementia, others in the groups and their carers.

He also noted that a large number of people said they remembered more about their past than they thought they would.

We already actively encourage our carers to look at photos and listen to music with service users with dementia and we are now also encouraging them to use the Reminiscence Archive, so our service users can access a wider range of photos, audio and video to help them trigger forgotten memories.

The archive is free to use, so is great for using at home if you have a friend or family member with dementia.