Memory Corner - I wish I had asked......

Over recent months I have had conversations with several friends who regret not having asked their parents and other relations more about their family stories before they died.

When we are young and busy with work and our growing families, there are usually too many things to fill our day to wonder about our forebears, although the growing interest in family genealogy seems to be changing that. Perhaps you are already having thoughts about doing that if you can find the time which silf-isolation continues.

Such research into the family tree is a great opportunity to ask for contributions from the memories of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This may also provide them with memory triggers and the chance to reminisce about their own early lives; it is also a great opportunity to capture their stories on video or maybe an audio recording if they are a bit shy, before they get older and perhaps begin to experience memory loss or dementia. Such interviews will also help to bring the family tree to life.

The role of memory triggers is a common thread in conversations when we have the pleasure of spending time with volunteers who run Memory Cafes around the UK and those who come to our Tea & Memories groups.

A very important benefit of dementia patients joining such groups is the opportunity to reminisce about life in years gone by. You probably find that you sometimes smell a scent, hear a tune or see an object which immediately transports you back to a particular place or event in your childhood or teens.

For some of us, particularly those who are now developing dementia in one of its many forms, living in the present is increasingly difficult and memories of earlier years in the UK, in the decades during and after the Second World War, become ever more important.

Greenpark Productions Ltd, which was set up in 1938 and has a unique collection of film programmes about UK social and industrial history, is now  working with Living Memories CiC using its archive film to create memory trigger resources for older people, including those living with dementia, who grew up during and after World War 2. 

It is not unusual for patients living with dementia to "come to life"when they see different scenes and objects in the archive films and they can then become quite animated about aspects of their early life. After watching one film clip  about milk delivery in the 1950s on a Living Memories DVD, one member of a Memory Cafe, who had apparently never spoken previously in group conversations suddenly jumped up. He said that he had grown up on a farm and to much  laughter described how his parents used a copper boiler to wash the family laundry on Mondays and for the rest of the week used the boiler to make clotted cream for sale in the local market. There were obviously no problems with health and safety in those days!

By the way, if you haven't already done so, why not ask older members of your family if they have similar interesting and amusing stories to tell. It may help to bring your family's past to life.

Brian Norris, Living Memories C.I.C.