Bringing the past back to life! How old films are reducing isolation for older people

There is nothing more comforting than a blast from the past, going down memory lane to relive feel-good moments.

And now a new initiative is helping the elderly do just this, connecting with yesteryear to help reduce their feelings of isolation.

Living Memories Online use archive films to trigger memories, which they hope will encourage discussion and allow people to reminisce.

[Credit: Micheile Henderson]

The footage on their website offers a huge range of social and historical documentaries and newsreels about life and work in the mid-20th century.

In particular, the programmes feature resources from the late 1930s to the 1970s, which can be streamed to help kickstart conversations.

Over 1,700 titles are currently available, with more added each month, including a news bulletin where a woman takes on the job of a bus conductresses and a video for young teenage girls on domestic lessons and how to be a good housewife.

They hope to reach as many people in the elderly community as possible, with the service available for homes, care homes, hospitals, libraries and community groups.

[Credit: Bruno Aguirre]

Founder of the Living Memories organisation, Brian Norris, said he hopes the activity of watching the material will bring people together in an uncertain world.

Norris explained: “Archive films can prompt older people to share memories and life experiences.

“Long-term memory is usually one of their strengths, so reminiscence encourages them to communicate and feel more confident about themselves. Living Memories Online will make reminiscence activity much more widely and easily available.

“This is important in combatting isolation, especially now that Covid-19 means that many elderly people are unable to access community groups.”

[Credit: Andreaa Popa]

He added: “At the group sessions we have found that many older people (including those with dementia) who had previously been reluctant to talk, started to reminisce about their life and shared experiences to make new friends and get to know their neighbours.”

Norris founded the not-for-profit social enterprise with his wife Leonore; they also publish DVDs and reminiscence resources and run their ‘Tea and Memory’ groups where archive programmes and newsreels are shown to communities.

He concluded: “One of our 82-year-old volunteers says watching the archive films and chatting about them with friends and family makes her feel young again.”

As they say, age ain’t nothing but a number.

For more info, click here: Living Memories Online.

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