Heritage healing

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The Museum of East Dorset’s reminiscence project engages the elderly, rekindling past experiences through tangible artefacts

Trustee/Volunteer Sue Cook, with volunteers Brian Holloway and Mary Knowles and some of the objects

An innovative outreach project by The Museum of East Dorset is tapping into the power of memories for elderly people – particularly those with dementia. The museum’s skilled, award-winning volunteers of the Reminiscence Team go into day centres, care homes, and senior clubs across East Dorset, offering their reminiscence sessions.
With a treasure trove of artefacts from the Museum of East Dorset, each session is a journey through time. Museum Trustee Sue Cook explains: ‘We can theme the sessions accordingly to suit the people we’re meeting. Toys and Games, Wartime, Holidays by the Sea, Childhood and It’s a Man’s World are just some of the themes we can build around with all the items we’re so lucky to have access to.’
The museum’s array of historical objects are not being used simply for a dose of feelgood nostalgia; the sessions are used as a therapeutic tool that promotes emotional wellbeing, as well as building social interaction.

That takes me back!
‘Our carefully curated collection of objects will transport participants back in time, triggering memories and sparking conversations,’ says Museum Director Chezzie Hollow. ‘From the strong scent of carbolic soap to the feel of a vintage toy, each item has been selected to evoke a sense of nostalgia and encourage reminiscing.’
That tactile experience of holding a familiar food box or sniffing a familiar scent can unlock stories and emotions from the past – especially in dementia sufferers, who find far-off memories easier to access.
Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Billy May, manager at Ferndown Plus day centre, says, ‘The visual memorabilia brought along for everyone to touch, feel and smell brought up lots of memories and conversations, and the team made the people we support feel valued and respected.’
The 45-minute sessions are free of charge, though donations are encouraged to help continue the museum’s charitable work.

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