Meaningful activities part four: Reminiscence

February 11, 2022

Even though a person living with dementia may find their memory becoming worse, they may still benefit from activities that require their long-term memories to be accessed, rather than relying on recent memories.  

Reminiscence therapy involves discussing events and experiences from the past and aims to evoke memories, stimulate mental activity and improve a person’s well-being. Reminiscence can often be supported by props such as videos, music, pictures and objects that may have particular meaning for an individual. Reminiscence can take place with wider family members and friends or with just one other person in the family.  Reminiscence can also be of great value when a person living with dementia is supported to develop their own life-story book.

Admiral Nurse with mother and daughter

Research has shown that reminiscence therapy can help older people with depression by focusing on positive and rewarding aspects of their past to support more positive thoughts. It may be suitable for people living with dementia both because depression is common in dementia and because people living with dementia typically have a better memory for the distant past than for recent events. 

How to start 

  • Begin with conversations about the past, you can introduce a topic or an item to look at or handle if this is easier. Engaging in conversation is a good start and helps the person feel that they are important and valued by you, also helping with their sense of being loved and belonging 

Other possible reminiscence topics  

  • Childhood and earlier holidays 
  • Favourite playground games/board games 
  • Foods, smells, likes, dislikes (most people will have a Brussels sprout story!) 
  • Pets and animals 
  • Family and relationships 
  • School days 
  • Photographs, family albums ( 
  • Music, playlists, album covers 
  • Tactile activities like painting, pottery, or other crafts. 
  • Topics such as sports, cars, beauty products (You can try The Chemist Archive from Boots)  
  • The list is endless! 

Reminiscence dementia activities, including life story work or memory boxes can also have many benefits, such as, improving a person’s mood and wellbeing as well as providing meaningful activity. 

  • Memory boxes containing personaobjects from the person with dementia’s past can be used in a variety of ways, such as; triggering certain positive memories, support wider family members and friends to stay connected by providing conversation prompts, provide insights into a person’s life story. They can often be used within life story work. 
  • Life story work is important for carers as well as loved ones to show a genuine interest in what the person with dementia is saying and to show that you value their story. You can decorate this book with photos or vibrant colours to help keep the person with dementia stimulated 

If you have any questions or concerns around dementia, you can call our free Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 to speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse.

Meaningful activities for a person with dementia

Head of Research and Publications, Dr. Karen Harrison Dening, points to why meaningful activities are so important for someone with dementia

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