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Brief Published: 26 Oct 2018

New Dementia Therapies Tap Nostalgia for Mental Wellbeing


Reminiscence therapy – a treatment which stimulates all five senses to trigger memories – is being used to support people with dementia. Care homes and even the BBC are using nostalgia to help patients connect with powerful memories.

A care home in Yorkshire has built an artificial street, designed to look like the British town in the 1950s, to help patients with dementia. It even replicates the village barber shop, grocer and Post Office from 60 years ago, which patients may remember from their youth.

The street is based on the dementia care-home village Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, where patients are immersed in nostalgic settings to align with their long-term memory. This type of therapy is based on the reminiscence bump, where older people or those suffering from dementia have clearer recollections of their childhood and early adulthood than their present context.

The BBC is also providing reminiscence therapy through music, with its newly launched Music Memories platform. The site has almost 2,000 songs and television theme tunes from the last century, which can be compiled into personal playlists. These can then be shared with information about the creator's age, gender and place of birth to help people identify songs that may resonate with other dementia patients.

Dynamic approaches to dementia treatment will become increasingly important; the number of people living with dementia globally is expected to rise to 152 million by 2050 (WHO, 2017).

The recent use of reminiscence therapy to support these patients reflects a growing trend towards sensorial experiences, which are being used in many contexts to help stimulate wellbeing in an increasingly digital world. Our recent spotlight trend, The Sensory Opportunity, explores different initiatives that exploit the five senses for meaningful experiences.