How to Practice Reminiscing Activities With Elderly People

Updated June 16, 2017

As people age, their memories decrease significantly. Memory loss is a problem amongst the elderly, particularly those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Activities that can that focus on the past can help the brain active and boost memory. Remembering pleasant experiences from the past can make people feel better as well. For the elderly, integrating therapeutic activities that include reminiscing can help with both mood and memory.

Facilitate an open discussion about past memories. Since it may be unclear where to begin the conversation, you can use prompts to help begin the discussions. You may even put the questions in a bowl and have participants pick them at random in order to spur the discussion. Examples of questions that can be used as prompts include: Share your favourite holiday experience, why was it special? What was your favourite job? What were birthdays like in your family? What is one thing you want your grandchildren or children to know about you?

Listen to music and watch TV. Familiar songs from the past can be a comforting reminiscing activity and can provoke strong memories. Participants can listen to their favourite songs and discuss experiences connected to them. Watching TV shows from participants' pasts can also provoke discussion. You can ask participants about their experiences getting their first TV, what it was like, what they watched and how it has impacted their lives over the years.

Use items from the past to evoke memory and discussion. This can be done with different themes. For instance, have participants share pictures or items from their weddings which may promote conversations about families and spouses. Other twists on this activity can include using old magazines or travel guides. These may provoke memories of shopping, cooking, styles, travel and family memories.


For a person with Alzheimer's, reminiscing activities may have the added bonus of helping to trigger thoughts and memories, increase a sense of achievement and encourage emotional expression.


According to Terri Needels in "Psychology Today," exercise may be just as helpful, if not more so, than mental stimulation in protecting memory. Exercise can boost oxygen circulation in the brain, reduce stress and fight depression.

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About the Author

Rebeca Renata has been writing since 2005 and has been published on various websites. She specializes in writing about clinical social work and social services. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Connecticut as well as a Master of Social Work from the Smith College School for Social Work.