17 October, The Grange, Oldham
We're working on developing reminiscence boxes, for use in care venues for older people. The objects in these boxes can spur very powerful remembering in people, even those who have memory problems.
We're trying various techniques, many of them light and playful, to add different facets to the reminiscence experience. Today, we put the objects into a bag - participants had to identify them by touch, reaching into the bag, exploring them by touch rather than by sight. The results caused great hilarity and gave the session a different focus than usual, stimulating much speculation and concentration. Smell is famously a trigger for memory, but touch is less used.
I'd brought various relics from my own childhood to the session, amongst them some toy soldiers. Here is the section from my field notes when the soldiers made their appearance:
Walter is completely transfixed when he encounters the toy soldiers in the bag. He gasps with recognition and a look of joy lifts his features. His delight is so big that it communicates itself to everyone in the group. His train of thought is fascinating, from childhood play to military service. 'It's going back for me. The subject isn't nice BUT the memories it evokes, they are nice. Cast them in lead a long time ago. (Dips into the bag and holds up one of the toy soldiers.) You can tell he's old, his rifle is drooping. I knew a lot of lads in Germany who were injured, became friends. Politicians have got a lot to answer for, people are the same everywhere, it's what they're directed to do by politicians is the problem.'
The reminiscences were cut up into lines and also put in a bag. People 'lucky-dipped' the lines, which were used to make a poem - a composition technique famously invented by the surrealists in the early 20th century, going under the title Exquisite Corpse. Dipping for objects and for poem lines brings an element of play into remembering and takes away from the fears that can accompany dementia.
I wonder what the 10 year old me would have thought of this game?