Reminiscence by Doris Daly
(see intro to Reminiscence project )
see poem Picking up the Broken Pieces of
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.
- Reminiscence seeks to establish the individual's self-worth by providing
an opportunity to recall and recount their journey through life.
- It reinforces their image of themselves as worthwhile individuals, and
establishes their personal identity in the society in which they have
invested their lives.
- Age culture or class is not a barrier. It exercises the memory cells of
the brain, a necessity to keep it honed and healthy, even if some of those
cells have been damaged or diminished.
- It provides a pathway for growth and extends self-knowledge.
- It aids group building and provides a bridge for moving towards the
wayfarers who share our great and wonderful sojourn here on earth.
- It affects a shift in consciousness to move on and get on with life. It
resolves old conflicts. It is a catharsis.
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
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
This will eclipse the clique or the elitist element and take on an ethos of
equal institutions where the residents are at different stages of dementia or
suffering from stroke or other nervous diseases. This is a specialist field
and demands a specialist's attention, but the ground rules remain the same.
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