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Manchester care home offers residents chance to relive the past


Fiona Gardens care facility in Sale opens up 1950-style Reminiscence Room to help boost memory of those with dementia

With Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers crooning on the stereogram and a Singer sewing machine whirring in the corner, residents at a care home in Manchester are being transported back to the 1950s in an attempt to boost their memory.

The Reminiscence Room has been painstakingly recreated with mid-century furniture, aged wallpaper and wall-to-wall lace doilies in the hope that it will help those with dementia connect with their past.

The room, at Fiona Gardens, a care facility in Sale, Greater Manchester, was the brainchild of staff who are also planning to hold regular reminiscence sessions to jog memories.

Joy, 82, who lives at the housing scheme said the newly refurbished room has brought back fond memories of her childhood.

The Reminiscence Room was designed to capture the era of the 1950s. Photograph: Trafford Housing Trust

“The Reminiscence Room is beautifully decorated and a nice place to sit and think,” she said. “It reminds me of my childhood home and has a sewing machine just like the one my mum used to take up the hems on my dresses. The radiogram brings back fond memories of the one which used to hold all my dad’s records.”

The housing trust which manages the home is now planning to open Memory Cafes and further reminiscence rooms in their other facilities.

Rodger Cairns, assistant director at Trafford housing trust’s independent living service TrustCare, said staff are always looking at innovative ways to support those living with dementia and will include a reminiscence room or area in each of their sheltered schemes over the next year.

“The trust also plans to introduce memory cafes across Trafford as a welcoming space for people with dementia and their family and carers, while partnering with specialist dementia organisations to provide information about their services,” he said.

In 2012 a Gloucestershire care home opened a 1950s “memory” street. With its Oxo adverts, rations books and traditional pub it was carefully constructed to make dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers at the Blossom Fields care home in Winterbourne feel more comfortable. It was hoped that eventually it could even improve their ability to recollect past events.

Architects were brought in and they carefully studied photographs of 1950s streets to properly capture the era in the design of the shops and pub.

Staff then combed scrap yards, charity shops and auction websites to unearth authentic objects to fill the buildings.

Residents were able to read newspapers and magazines from the period, detailing the Queen’s Coronation and in the White Hart pub, they were welcomed with tobacco tins and vintage beer mats.

Studies have shown that discussing the past can help to boost the memory. Reminiscence therapy is used to improve psychological wellbeing in dementia sufferers, but is increasingly thought to improve memory too. A study of dementia sufferers at Exeter University in 2009 found that reminiscing boosted memories by an average of 12%.

One of the first places to pioneer the idea was Hogewey nursing home near Amsterdam. They created the self-contained village of De Hogeweyk, where 152 dementia sufferers live in traffic-free streets with shops, a bar and a hairdresser. It is now an internationally renowned facility.


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