Old films to help recover people's forgotten past

Old home movies are being used to help trigger the forgotten past of people with dementia and other memory loss.

It is part of a new project called Memory Bank developed by the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) along with healthcare professionals and carers.

Old films have been carefully selected to help participants remember the past.

YFA director Sue Howard said one user had said: "It's like peeling back the years - the memories are still there, its just needs a trigger."

The majority of the films being used are home movies shot in and around Yorkshire from the 1940s to 70s, all of which are housed at YFA which is based at York St John University.

The six-minute clips feature familiar subjects such as holidays, sports, school days, shopping and working life.

The YFA said they focus on everyday activities that participants will have experienced at one time or another in their youth.

Fashion mistakes

The films come in a resource pack, complete with notes and tips on what to discuss at various points.

Memory Bank follows an 18-month research project.

Organisers of the study said the films prompted conversations with the participants on everything from knitted bathing costumes, free school milk and 1960s fashion mistakes and clocking on at work.

Ms Howard said: "Memory Bank is about opening up our collections to a huge range of old people, many of whom face a number of age-related challenges, and who often have very few opportunities to see and enjoy films such as these.

"Reminiscence therapy and memory work play an invaluable role in improving a sense of personal identity and well being, and stimulating communication and sociability.

"Memory Bank is a unique proposition - it uses films taken largely from our home movie collections, which are a fantastic visual record of everyday life over the decades.

"It is these films that trigger our collective memories."

Social gerontologist Professor Dianne Willcocks, emeritus professor at York St John University, said: "Memory Bank offers older people a compelling and fun tool to reclaim their lived past and to share it with family, friends and carers.

"It works both for those living with dementia and for those simply living with rich memories."

The project has been supported by the Screen Heritage UK programme, which is a partnership between the British Film Institute, Screen Yorkshire and English Regional Film Archives, to safeguard the future of the UK's national and regional film collections funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.