old photographs for memories

A trip down memory lane: new initiatives in memory care

What are your fondest memories? Childhood summers? School days or college? Chances are, some of your strongest memories date from when you were aged between 10 and 30 years old. As the UK Alzheimer’s Society suggests:

“This is probably because older memories – which are thought about more often – become more firmly established and are more likely to be recalled than newer memories.”

Memory loss and dementia

Memory loss is a major element of the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A person with dementia will often struggle with recent and day-to-day memory loss, such as remembering how to do certain tasks, taking medicines, or getting lost in their neighbourhood. However, their long-term memories are often less affected.

Emotions and memories

Emotions also impact on the ability to recall memories. We all know how certain sounds, smells, music, or tastes, bring long-buried memories flooding back. It’s the same for those with memory loss. By recalling just one element of a memory, such as the smell, the whole memory may be recalled.

Indeed, how people feel about something can often be remembered more than the actual memory itself. So, a person may recall feeling happy on a camping vacation, without remembering the factual details of the vacation itself. The emotion attached to a memory can also help trigger recall of long-practiced physical skills, such as playing a musical instrument or complex dance steps.

Memory storage

The brain may store different types of memories in different ways. A recent study by a team at UCL London cited how:

“An avid bird watcher with dementia held on to memories of bird features, feathers and human faces and voice but misplaced memory of birdsong.”

Using the past to access the present

This week, a New Yorker magazine article on memory care featured communities around the world that use past memories to help their residents live in the present. The article cites a community in Ohio that recreates the familiar look of the community outside, within the community building itself. Corridors are decorated as streets, with clapboard fronts and porches, and street lights. The central room is fashioned as a town square, complete with fountain and benches. Even the ceiling is painted to resemble sky, and lit according to the time of day.

Familiar and secure

One of the most celebrated examples of this way of recreating physical communities is not actually about recreating the past, but creating a safe version of the present. Near Amsterdam in the Netherlands is De Hogeweyk, a memory care facility that is constructed exactly like a modern Dutch neighbourhood.

Residents live in housing with distinct styles depending on what they are accustomed to, from upmarket styled houses to family homes. The whole site has familiar urban elements, including a theatre, supermarket, and café around a central courtyard. The indoor mall hosts concerts that often turn into impromptu sing-a-longs and dancing, as the music triggers memories for residents. The community comes along too: every Wednesday, young moms and their toddlers come for lunch at the trendy restaurant, also open to local people.

Visiting the past for the day

In California, a new initiative called Town Square has recreated San Diego in the late Fifties, complete with news stand, garage and diner. Created by a team with decades of experience in day care for those with dementia, the concept is that anyone with memory loss can visit this simulated urban environment. Known as “reminiscence therapy”, the idea is that participants are surrounded by what the team call “tangible prompts from their past”, to trigger past memories.

Our Hearts Memory Care

At The Manor Village Life Centres, we have offered senior Memory Care for many years. Our Hearts Memory Care lifestyle provides a safe and secure environment for those residents requiring guidance in a secure, structured and/or supportive neighbourhood.

Our Wellness Team, including our physicians and health care specialists, oversee the care of our residents who require dementia care, in co-operation with their family GP and/or specialist doctor.

We understand the various ways that memory can be affected, and our dedicated and caring team are both skilled and compassionate in helping Residents with all aspects of living with memory loss. Like many senior and memory care communities, our communities create a wide variety of memory triggers, from family photos in Residents’ suites to era-specific music played live by visiting musicians, vintage objects to handle and enjoy, to much-loved movies screened in our theater.

Activities and animals

Our Activities team create a packed program of activities and social events designed to stimulate and preserve memory as much as possible. Our outdoor memory garden is particularly popular with both Residents and their families.

We’ve also invested in realistic animatronic Companion Pets that bring back memories of much-loved dogs and cats with gentle movements, realistic noises and super-soft fur to stroke. (Our staff love them too!)

Memory Care at The Manor Village

If you’d like to discuss memory care for a parent, loved one, or relative, just call us for a personalised tour to any one of our Manor Village centres in Calgary at Staywell Manor, Groves of Varsity, Fish Creek Park, Currie Green, and at the Manor Village in London ON.