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Reminiscence - sharing memories to stay healthy

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Sharing events of ones past is a proven therapeutic intervention that improves self-esteem as well as feelings of fulfilment and comfort (Klever, 2013). However we now know it goes beyond feeling good, it also helps strengthens the brain to resist cognitive decline.

Sharing events sometimes referred to as reminiscence experience, in is simplist form is talking to someone about an event from your past, usually with the prompt of a photo, video, music or important object.

The concept of the reminiscence experience stems from the neuroscience of familiarity or the brain’s ability to recognise and “inculcate faces of those we hold dear” (Henderson, 2021). New scientific research discovered that neural cells in the temporal pole of the brain respond when encountered with faces that the individual is personally familiar with (Landi, Viswanathan, Serene, & Freiwald, 2021). This quick recognition response allows the brain to discriminate familiar faces in a crowd. The reminiscence experience taps into this neural ability to recognise familiar faces and then recall and discuss important events and memories related to them.

Based on previous research, the feeling of familiarity induced by sessions of reminiscence experience appear to reduce loneliness and increase psychological well-being (Chiang, Chu, & Chang, 2009). Since reminiscing involves discussing important life events, participants also reported increased feelings of accomplishment.

“Yesterday’s child is today’s adult and tomorrow’s grandmother or grandfather” (WHO, 2002).

This quote emphasises the importance of the relationship between, older and younger generations. The WHO (2002) report states that generational bonding would not only stimulates learning between age groups but also promotes active and heathy ageing in older adults.

Previous studies have incorporated concepts of intergenerational interaction with reminiscence to develop an established interventional model (Chung, 2009; Gaggioli, 2014). Here, sessions are conducted with older adults reminiscing about their past and building a personal record jointly with the younger persons. Studies suggest that this joint reminiscence approach provides mutual benefits for both older and younger persons (Matheson-Monnet, 2019). For instance, there is better understanding and increased bonding between both parties as well as older adults reporting less loneliness, enhanced well-being, and a better quality of life.

These benefits of intergenerational reminiscence are particularly seen when it is experienced amongst family members. Older adults may feel more comfortable and confident divulging personal information to younger members of their family. In addition to the well-being and emotional benefits of reminiscence, the older adult is presented with the opportunity to discuss their meaningful memories, provide wisdom, and preserve family stories for later generations (Gellar, 2017).

Digital Reminiscence

Digital content that feels familiar and has multisensorial stimuli (such as playing music with photos or showing videos) help recall of enjoyable memories leading to positive social interaction (Moon & Park, 2020). Hence, it was found that digital reminiscence was more effective in reducing feelings of depression and increasing engagement compared to traditional reminiscence (Moon & Park, 2020).

So if theres one takeaway its this; please talk, whether face to face, online, over a phone, just talk and share your memories, its mutually beneficial and strengthens your brain!

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