Groundhog Day: the benefits of reliving memories

Yes, it’s that time of year again! On February 2nd, hundreds of us will brave the freezing weather at a variety of events across Canada, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive groundhog as it emerges from its burrow.

Forecasting fact or fictitious folklore, there’s no denying that Groundhog Day makes for a great story. Popularized by the 1993 movie of the same name, this furry phenomenon still has the power to attract locals, tourists and media alike. What’s more, a great story can be powerful therapy, not least for seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.


Nothing like a good yarn

It’s hard to deny the charm of the legend of Groundhog Day. Forecasting the weather is a tricky business after all, so why not give the humble groundhog a shot? However, its behavior is very weather-dependent!

  • On a sunny day, there’s the risk that the groundhog will see its shadow and return to its hole for six more weeks of winter.
  • On a cloudy day, when there are no shadows, then outside the groundhog will stay. Then it’s official: the worst of winter is over, and spring is on its way.


Storytelling success for seniors

Hearing a good story can certainly improve our mood, but for seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the benefits are much more far-reaching. Being told or reliving a good story can:

  • Improve communication and social engagement

Improved levels of engagement, in turn, reduces feelings of loneliness and depression.

  • Increase confidence

Telling seniors stories can spark their memories and hopefully prompt them to tell a personal story of their own.

  • Aid memory recovery

Familiar tales and poems work best of all. Seniors who are often unable to recall what they had for lunch that day will happily mouth along to a poem or key lines of a book they first studied at school, maybe 60+ years ago!

  • Recovery of identity and self-esteem

Telling personal stories can provide an improved sense of who the person was and who they still are.

Sowing the seeds of a good story:

Most seniors love to tell stories about the “good old days”, while some may need a little prompting. Here are just a few of the ways you can help your senior friends or family members re-ignite some treasured memories this Groundhog Day:

  • Yesterday’s news

Dig out some stories from old newspapers or the internet about big weather events in years gone by. See what they remember about these events, or stories about other family members caught up in exceptional weather.

  • Create a memory or ‘rummage’ box

Choose objects linked to long-held interests or hobbies. Physically handling objects can generate memories more effectively than simply looking at photographs. Objects which are not normally found at home will work particularly well. Sand and seashells are highly tactile and will encourage stories of holidays past, for example. Or, if it’s snowing, why not bring a tray of snow inside to make mini snowmen – at least for a while!

  • Watch classic movies

Movies can rekindle memories, perhaps of movie-based first dates or film star crushes! At The Manor Village, we hold regular ‘movie matinees’ of favourite films in our movie theatres or lounges. We even provide popcorn to bring back the iconic smell of a real movie theatre!

  • Cook or bake together

How often do people smell freshly baked cookies or other home-made food and say “Gosh, that takes me back to…”. Why not reminisce about favourite foods from childhood, and make them together again. You might even learn what that secret ingredient is that always makes Grandma’s cookies the best!

  • Listen to music

But what music, we hear you ask? Good question! According to The New Statesman:

“Studies show that music is rarely present in our earliest memories, but forms a key part of later memories… (This is probably due to) the reminiscence bump, which describes how the memories that we form between the ages of 16 and 25 are, for some reason, remembered more vividly than memories made at any other age.”

Singing along, will help with emotional re-engagement and recall. Tunes associated with landmark memories, such as a first dance at a wedding are a perfect choice.


Making memories at Manor Village

At the Manor Village, we offer a varied activity program which is both engaging and appropriate for all our Residents. Unlike the movie Groundhog Day, we are proud to say that every day is different! Whether it’s an exercise class or a card game, a lunch outing or a themed dining night, a craft session or a sing-along, our monthly activity calendar has something for everyone, everyday, from morning to evening.

So why not make this February 2nd really memorable by visiting any of our Calgary senior living communities? Call us to book your visit today.