Archive films used in pioneering approach to tackling dementia and memory loss

Films from the collections housed at the Yorkshire Film Archive are at the forefront of a pioneering project to connect the past to the present, and bring back memories to share and enjoy.

Working with experts from Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA), the Yorkshire Film Archive has created “Memory Bank”, an innovative series of carefully curated themed DVDs and online films, plus a wealth of information and activities for use in reminiscence therapy and life story work.

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that in Yorkshire and Humber alone, there are more than 60,000 people diagnosed as having dementia. It is also estimated, however, that a further 65 per cent of cases are as yet undiagnosed.

Nationally, the figure for those affected by dementia rises to more than 800,000. Even though the condition mainly affects people over the age of 65, there are more than 17,000 people in the UK under the age of 65 who have dementia.

The films that have been used in Memory Bank have been selected largely from home movie collections held by the YFA, ensuring that everyone can relate to the familiar subject themes: Holidays, Schooldays, Sporting Fun, Working Life, Domestic Life, and Fêtes, Fairs and Fireworks.

The curation of the final material has been based on over 18 months of action research with a large number of participants, and benchmarked against Care Quality Commission standards.

Memories of knitted bathing costumes, free school milk, 1960s fashion mistakes, favourite fireworks and clocking on at work became the immediate hot topics for conversations after watching the films.

Memory Bank packs also contain a user guide, film notes, lots of ideas for discussions, suggestions for activities, guidance on starting a memory box, and a “Life and Times” section spanning the changes over the decades from the 1920s up to the 1970s.

Sue Howard, Yorkshire Film Archive Director, said:

Memory Bank is about opening up our collections to a huge range of older people, many of whom face a number of age related challenges, and who often have very few opportunities to see and enjoy films such as these.

Reminiscence therapy and memory work play an invaluable role in improving a sense of personal identity and wellbeing, and stimulating communication and sociability.

Memory Bank is a unique proposition – it uses films taken largely from our home movie collections, which are a fantastic visual record of everyday life over the decades. It is these films that trigger all of our collective memories.

Over the last 18 months, we have worked with experts from various organisations to reach this stage.

Equally important was our interaction with ‘end users’ and their families. They guided us on what they found interesting, what they wanted to talk about, and what themes they wanted Memory Bank to focus on.

Once the themes had been decided, trials were carried out with groups in a range of settings, from one-to-one work in St Leonard’s Hospice, York, to social groups like the Dementia Café Group in Penistone, and a variety of MHA residential care homes across Yorkshire.

As one Memory Bank user who was involved in the pilot summarized: ‘It’s like the years peeling back – the memories are all still there, it just needs a trigger’.

Suzanne Wightman, Senior Manager at the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

The Portrait of a Life team have been delighted to support Memory Bank and to share our expertise in this area.

We are proud to be associated with such a positive development and believe it will be another great resource for anyone affected by dementia.

Eminent gerontologist, Professor Dianne Willcocks CBE DL, said:

Memory Bank offers older people a compelling and fun tool to reclaim their lived past – and to share it with family, friends and carers alike.

It works both for those living with dementia and for those simply living with rich memories.

Sally Joynson, CEO of Screen Yorkshire said:

Memory Bank is real innovation – it connects our screen heritage to the very people who were there at the time – they have all the memories to share – and these films just provide the trigger to unlock them.

As a funder, we want to ensure that we support work that demonstrates new partnerships, opens up collections in new way, and is of real value to people – and for Screen Yorkshire this is a fantastic example.

A new post of Memory Bank Development Manager has now been created with funding from the Dunhill Medical Trust.






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