Vintage photos from yesteryear provide wonderful reminiscing opportunities for the elderly living with dementia.  Remembering the past helps the elderly affirm their lives and uncover deep-seated memories.
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Vintage photos from yesteryear provide wonderful reminiscing opportunities for the elderly living with dementia.

Remembering the past helps the elderly affirm their lives and uncover deep-seated memories. Be aware that old photos can trigger positive and negative emotions; be prepared to offer support and consolation when negative emotions surface.

Benefits of Reminiscing with Vintage Photos

Reminiscing activities provide so many benefits for the elderly. Reminiscing with old photos may assist them to:

  • Come to terms with unresolved issues
  • Find meaning in significant past events
  • Cope with loss
  • Promote balance in disoriented minds

How to Plan a Vintage Photo Reminiscing Activity

  • Download supplied pictures and enlarge them if you wish.
  • Seek props and other relevant materials pertaining to the pictures
  • Seat residents around a table; preferably a round table
  • Use questions provided to start conversations or come up with your own questions

Example of props: If the photo shows a Railway and Train you may bring a toy train and a track to add interest to the activity.

Vintage Photo Reminiscing - Group Session

The success of a group session will depend on the abilities of the clients involved. If all clients have dementia, it would be a good idea to get some help from volunteers or other staff.

  • Prepare props or aids, if necessary, for two or three photos
  • Show photo to the group for a minute or two asking them to describe what they see
  • Pass the photo from client to client while maintaining the conversation
  • Make sure each client holds the photo and has a good look at it
  • Encourage shared talk as much as possible
  • If reminiscing decreases, move on to another photo

Vintage Photo Reminiscing - One-on-One Session

  • Show photo and ask client to describe it
  • Eye contact with client is very important
  • Ask questions and wait patiently for responses
  • Encourage with tips about details on the photos

Vintage Photos Samples with Conversations Starters

Use the provided photos and converstation starters below or use your own.

Photo 1
1896 - They are all young men, machine-operators for a glass window manufacturer. Some are smoking pipes.

  • Has anyone seen glass blowing?
  • Apart from house windows what else can be made of glass?
  • Why do all boys have a hat or cap?
  • Don’t they look too young to work / smoke?

Photo 2
Family portrait

  • People used to have more children
  • Why might they be pulling petals from flowers?
  • Hair styles of lady and children

Photo 3
Cable Car Kitchen

  • Has anyone travelled in a cable car?
  • The cable car in the picture is still in use in California Street
  • In the 1960s trams stopped being used in many countries. Are they still in use in your country?
  • What is the best thing about travelling by tram?

Photo 4
Dresden construction workers in 1900

  • Is it lunch time?
  • What are they constructing?
  • What is in the background?
  • What happened to Dresden in Feb 1945?

Photo 5
Knott’s Berry Farm 1920

  • What type of vehicle is is?
  • What was your first car?
  • How many sorts of berries do you know?
  • Do you think the couple are the owners or tourists?

Regardless of how long the session lasts (it should last between 30 and 40 minutes) participants will benefit from the social contact and shared memories.

If you wish to extend the session, end it with a sing-along of an old song such as Lilli Marlene, Lily of Laguna, Some Enchanted Evening, or Maria Elena.

We'd love to hear your feedback!

Files included:

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Reminiscing with Vintage Photos

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Comments   Post a Comment

Kymberly 10th Jan 2018 Activities Coordinator
Love the activity. The photos are just a prompt to find Australian pics of my own, exactly the kind of discussion i need weekly. Extended to how they paid getting on, how they let the driver when they wanted to get off, family recipe secrets, earning an extra dollar when they were children. More of them please
Talita 14th Jan 2018
Noted! Thanks for your feedback Kymberly. I will follow up on this and get back to you. I believe we do have other ones in other activities.
Carol 22nd Feb 2017 Activities Organiser
Could we have some British-specific photographs please?
Wonderful site
Maurice 23rd Feb 2017
Hi Carol!

Good idea.

I'll let our activity department know to release country-specific photos next time.

Amy 25th May 2017 Activity Coordinator
Great resource! We would also be interested in British pictures.
Thanks so much,
Talita 27th May 2017
These are coming soon Amy and Carol... I have followed up on this for you.
Caughey 17th Feb 2017 DT
Good ideas
Talita 20th Feb 2017
Thank you! Appreciate the feedback.
Laurie 16th Feb 2017 Recreation Activity Officer
Great idea but why are all the photographs of American origin?
Maurice 16th Feb 2017
Hi Laurie,

Great question. We have a number of these reminiscing photo activities planned this year. We didn't intentionally make all the photos US based.

I'll let our activity department know to release an AU-specific one next :).

Thanks for the feedback.
Shelley 14th Feb 2017 Music therapist
Great activity. It is often beneficial to start reminiscing with something to smell. For Knotts Berry Farm, open a new jar of their jam and let people smell. It is where start to attach our memories.
Talita 14th Feb 2017
Thanks for your feedback Shelley. What a great idea!
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