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Posted: 22nd March 2012

Work from my Personal Skills Development - PGCE
March 2010

What is Reminiscence?

"Reminiscence therapy involves the discussion of past activities, events and experiences with another person or group of people, usually with the aid of tangible prompts such as photographs, household and other familiar items from the past, music and archive sound recordings". (Woods et al 2005)

Reminiscence is a means of recapturing parts of the past and focusing on them to enrich our daily lives. We all do this naturally and we mostly find it enjoyable to revisit our past lives, including the recent past. Hearing other people’s recollections triggers our own half-forgotten memories and can generate a collective sense of shared experience. (Schweitzer and Bruce 2008)

Our remembered past sheds light on the present and prepares us for facing an unknown future. It helps us with problem-solving. By looking back we are able to draw on evidence of past coping; we are encouraged in times present; and dare to hope we shall cope in the future (Gibson 2006).


There have been various studies and articles on theoretical approaches to reminiscence.   

These have been exploring what types of people are more suited to reminisce, what are the main functions to the process and its effectiveness with different groups of people.  

Remembering Yesterday and Caring Today has been a European project, looking at the benefits of reminiscence with people with dementia and their carers.  

There has also been research into other non-western cultures, which have found a universal ‘reminiscence bump’, where we remember more memories, and more vividly, from the ages of 10 - 30. (Bluck et al. 2009)

Useful References and Resources:

Gibson, F. (2006) Reminiscence and Recall; a Practical Guide to Reminiscence Work. Third ed. London: Age Concern England

Schweitzer, P. and Bruce, E. (2008) Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today; Reminiscence in Dementia Care, a Guide to Good Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Demiray, Burecu, Gülgöz, Sami and Bluck, S (2009) ‘Examining the life story account of the reminiscence bump: Why we remember more from young adulthood’, Memory, Vol 17, Part: 7, pp. 708 - 723

Cappeliez et al (2008) ‘Fucntions of reminiscence and emotional regulation among older adults’, Journal of Aging Studies, Vol 22, pp. 266 – 272

Woods, RT., Spector, Jones, Orrell and Davies S. (2005) ‘Reminiscence therapy for dementia: a review of the evidence for its effectiveness’, Cochrane Datadase of Systematic Reviews, 2. Oxford: Wiley Interscience

May 2012 -

The poster above was the creative outcome of a personal research project for my PGCE. I wanted to look at the field of Reminiscence to help improve my understanding of other forms of activities for older people and how this approach could enhance my own practice. There was quite a lot to look at, particularly as it is not currently seen as a 'profession' and there are numerous issues around good practice and safety for participants. In a way there are many parallels that could be drawn to community arts.

I found this project so useful at the time. I did quite a bit of research on using different techniques and my interest was trying to incorporate certain elements within my sessions.

My goal was, and still is, to bring together positive and effective reminiscence work within my sessions with older people along with a tangible end product as a piece of artwork. I've attempted this is various ways, including memory boxes and photo albums. My future aim is to work on a life-book project which works with older people in a counselling-like setting to go through their photographs and memorabilia to create a book as a keepsake for them and their family. The difficulty with this is the funding of such a process; something which I am still working on.

Organisations such as Age Concern in Oldham/AgeUK Oldham have done a shortened version of this idea - Life Stories

Also, Gibson's (2006) book on Reminiscence is amazing - so well written; full of theoretical and practical insights for working with reminiscence work. She has another book that has come out since about the use if reminiscence throughout our lives that I am hoping to buy soon:

Reminiscene has been used with many different age groups, such as the work done by Real Art on Teen-AGE-
The evaluation, by Jo Buffery can be viewed here:

In the end, I learnt that we all like to reminisce in some way or another and providing there is a positive and supportive space where people can choose to; it can be a life-enriching process.

Further Reading

Experiences of Ageing

Lucy uses drawing as a method for gaining understanding of unfamiliar objects and to develop greater insight into the familiar