Reminiscing & Why It Matters
When spending time with loved ones, chances are talk will turn to “the good old days.” Talking about the past and how they experienced life offers a glimpse into days gone by and more importantly, their experience of life and family history. Reminiscing with loved ones is one of the most enjoyable things we can do with them. What might surprise you, though, is that reminiscing also plays a key role in cognitive health and well-being.
What Is Reminiscing?
Reminiscing is more than just remembering a specific experience. Reminiscing is spending time talking about experiences of the past in whatever way they are recalled. There’s no pressure to remember something specific. Rather, it’s about letting the person recall and share what comes up, following their tale where it may lead.
How each person remembers an experience will be different. The brain’s ability to store memories is powerful and people store memories in lots of different ways. Their memories might be vague with scant details. Likewise, they might be vivid and rich in detail. Some memories are so vivid that one can even recall how something sounded, smelled, or tasted.
Hearing about your loved one’s past experiences can be fun but there’s more. Reminiscing has proven benefits for older adults.
Benefits of Reminiscing
As we age, memories begin to fade and people can become overwhelmed by the stress of daily living. It’s easy to lose touch with one’s sense of self. For elderly adults with dementia, there is a profound loss of short-term memory. More than just recalling memories, reminiscing helps the brain create and strengthen pathways that can help to preserve memories and boost feelings of well-being, keeping the past-present connection healthy for as long as possible.
Some of the many benefits of reminiscing include:
- Improves mood
- Reduces in anxiety and stress
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Improves cognitive functioning
- Improves communication
- Relieves boredom
- Re-establishes connection to the past and life’s meaning
- Increases feelings of self-worth and sense of belonging in the world
An added benefit of reminiscing is that you have the opportunity to experience your loved one’s experience through their memories and stories.
Ways to Reminisce with Your Loved One
Reminiscing doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, your loved one may be elated to know that someone is interested in hearing about their experiences and memories. Sometimes it just takes a prompt of some kind to start the process. Here are some tips for reminiscing with your elderly loved one:
Bring Out the Family Photo Albums
Pictures and mementos of days past can spark a conversation about days past. Listen as your loved one tells you their memories of these times. Remembering good friends and good times is comforting for your loved one. Consider documenting these remembrances in some way. Their stories preserve history for future generations.
Songs of the Heart
Music has the power to evoke powerful memories and has shown to be particularly helpful for people with dementia. Does your loved one have a favorite artist or type of music? Hearing songs that hold meaning can bring back positive memories and feelings. If you’re not sure about their musical preferences, try playing some music that was popular during their youth. You may find them singing along. Listen as they reminisce about the memories it may bring up.
Have A Movie Night
Does your loved one have a favorite movie? Most people have a favorite movie or movie genre. If you can, find out what their favorite movie is and have an movie night. Watch it together as they reminisce about what meaning the movie holds for them. Not sure what their favorite movie is? Try choosing a popular movie from their childhood or teen years. Can your loved one travel safely? Consider attending a classic film showing if your community offers such events.
Revive Holiday Traditions
Holidays hold deep meaning for many people. The traditions we have connect us to family past and present. Does your senior have a favorite holiday or holiday tradition? Maybe it was making that special dish or dyeing eggs or baking those cookies you wait all year for. Ask your loved one about their favorite holiday memories and traditions. Recreate some of those traditions for them.
The Meaning of Things
Objects and mementos hold tremendous personal meaning and can evoke powerful memories. And often, the objects are things you might not connect to a memory. Think about some of the items in your loved one’s home that have been there forever. It might be a rock or a seashell, a figurine, or an odd piece of metal. To you it might not hold meaning, but there’s a reason it’s there. Ask your loved one about the item and the story behind it. Listen as they share why it is special to them.
The Road to Remembering
If your loved one is able, consider taking a literal trip down memory lane. Think about the places that might hold special meaning for them. Is there a place they long to see again? If so, and if it’s safe to do so, consider making a visit to this place. Maybe it’s a childhood home or the church they married in, or a special family vacation spot. Why is this place so special?
If you choose to take a trip, be sure to pack all the essentials your loved one will need to feel comfortable and secure. ClassyPal Wipe n’ Wear adult bibs can help make meals on-the-go easy and carefree. Don’t forget those items to keep your loved one feeling comfy and warm. ClassyPal slippers, wheelchair blankets, and compression gloves are easy to pack and will keep your loved on comfy as they travel down memory lane.
Reminiscing is a lovely way to connect with your loved one as they stay connected with their past and present. As you spend time with your loved one, encourage them to share their memories. You’ll be helping them to keep their cognition strong and you’ll create bonds that will last for generations.