Top Ten Tips for Successful Reminiscence Sessions

Jul 20

Helen Fountain, Reminiscence Officer at the Museum of Oxford. includes these useful tips in her chapter, "Museums, Memories and Well-Being" in The Caring Museum:

  1. Use a side room or quiet space away from the main activities if possible and arrange the seating so that participants are sitting in a semi-circle. If participants can see each other’s faces then they are less likely to interrupt each other as they can see when someone is talking or about to talk. Some participants may have hearing problems and need to lip read.
  2. Care staff and group leaders are a great asset to the session and it’s important to work with them in a positive way and get them involved. Request that at least one member of staff is present throughout the session; staff know the participants well and will be able to react appropriately if someone is taken ill or needs help with a personal care task. Sessions can provide bonding opportunities for participants and carers, with anecdotal feedback from carers revealing that they enjoy the sessions as they learn so much about the participants. They also really enjoy joining in and reminiscing about their own experiences
  3. Ensure that the objects used in the reminiscence session are clean, free from hazards, light enough to handle, don’t have sharp edges and don’t contain harmful substances (i.e. old cleaning products).
  4. Make sure that all the participants are happy to take part in the session and understand what the activity is going to involve.
  5. The ideal maximum number in the group is 15. Smaller groups may work better if the participants are very frail.
  6. Base the session on themes (i.e. food and cookery) to facilitate some structure and to help participants focus on the activity and give the session a sense of purpose.
  7. Have a session plan but allow the conversation to follow its own natural path – some of the tangential conversations are extremely enriching and the theme can always be returned to at a later stage. This approach rarely fails, but if conversation does dry up then the facilitator can fall back on the session plan and deliver a talk. 
  8. Use a range of resources to stimulate reminiscence including objects, photographs, documents, music, audio clips of spoken word and smells.
  9. Listen actively and show an interest in what is being said. Try to empower the participants by praising their achievements and celebrating their life experiences.
  10. Suggest follow up activities with care staff to enable the benefit of the session to be longer lasting i.e. a session on holidays and trips to the seaside in the old days can be followed up by participants sharing old holiday photos or looking at holiday locations on the internet.

What's your experience? Leave a comment and share it with the community!




Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with the latest releases, book extracts and free Reading Room chapters.