A sociologist (Butler) wrote an article in praise of reminiscence and it
became the buzzword of the 60's as the great cure all for the ageing process
among other things. Since then it has spawned an industry and perplexed those
who have to sell the idea of it. Can it be quantified? Is it a tool for
Or is it a therapy for the use of social workers in institutions? Controversy reigns. And it is a mistake to believe that only the elderly reminisce, the older person has more time to reminisce. It is also erroneously considered to be the prerogative of the working class and a look at commercial "memorabilia" will confirm this myth.
Without a memory there is no person, there is no selfhood. A person exists from having lived through the past.
How can we start a Reminiscence Project?
Reminiscence is more successfully conducted by a qualified teacher or tutor who has a firm grounding in social history, group dynamics, anatomy, physiology, myths legends and superstitions, music and song, among other things.
The tutor controls and checks the scheme of work, lesson plans, and classroom etiquette, with a commitment to confidentiality, insures that everyone has their say and is listened to with manners and respect.
There is always the danger that a session might deteriorate into a shouting match, a bragging contest, an exchange of insults, and a gossipmonger's field day. The introduction of ground rules from the beginning is essential and the experienced tutor will be on the alert and keep a tight rein on class management wherever that class may be, be it in an old folks home, the women's institute, the local day hospital, a class for people with learning disabilities, at a pensioners club.
A stimulating programme of targets set by mutual agreement with the class members, gives momentum and longevity to a class and eliminates boring repetition and absenteeism. Collecting artefacts, photographs, visits to places of interest, museums, archives, theatres etc. enlivens and invigorates the class, attracts new members involves the neighbourhood and the staff of institutions.
Enquire at your local college to find out if they have or are considering a reminiscence project or cajole them into starting one - especially for YOUR seniors group!
Reminiscence, like love, is "a many splendoured thing, ... its nature's way
of giving a reason to be living....".
So, dance back across the decades on the milestones of your life and put your marker down to say you passed this way, once.
Doris M. Daly RGN