European Reminisence Network

Review of RTRT project: Ireland - Dublin

 Ireland RTRT

Memorable moments that took place in our RTRT group

  • “Reminiscence is very important. The children were very interested to learn more”

    One gentleman who rarely wants to participate in anything outside the home expressed his delight at attending the sessions (after the 3rd session) and looked forward to coming to more

  • Another gentleman who was unable to express himself verbally was a very good dancer and waltzed his way around the room with any lady who would join him, all the time laughing and smiling

  • “Playing records / cds is a great idea. It sparks off remembering other events”

    A lady, who complained about almost anything her husband suggested she do, was absolutely delighted when we had the music session and she was able to dance around the room.  They had previously attended tea dances regularly but had ceased in recent years. She was a lovely dancer and got great enjoyment from the activity. Her husband said he would be looking for dances that they could attend together as a result of that session, because he saw such a positive change in her

  • The people in the group found they had many interests in common but also many of them actually had gone to the same school or knew the same shops, etc., which made the interactions very personal and all the more enjoyable.

The main things we have learned


Successes to build on:

  • “Important for happiness and telling family members about the old times”

    We didn’t use the term ‘dementia’ in any of the sessions where everyone was together. Keeping the term ‘dementia’ out of the conversation allowed all group members to feel they were equal participants with equal ability to give to the group and not that half the group are somehow less than the others.

  • Using a theme for each session and letting participants know in advance, gave the sessions structure and allowed group members to prepare for the theme, eg., school days, work days, special occasions, by gathering items from home.

  • “I had a great time, very enjoyable and helpful”

    Having a prepared timetable for the six sessions detailing what would happen at each session with times, themes, locations, contact details of organisers, etc., meant that people knew what was happening over the course of the six weeks and could plan accordingly.  It also meant that people could let us know in advance if they were unavailable on a particular day so that we could take their absence into account.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • Leave plenty of time for recruitment of participants if you do not already have access to a group of suitable people. Recruitment of group members can take several months depending on the route you take. Look at the pros and cons of various recruitment options before deciding on one particular method. Initially, we started recruiting through the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, but in the end we only got two suitable couples through them. We then liaised with a memory clinic that we had a connection with and found it easier to recruit people through that

  • We had ethical concerns over running a workshop of six sessions duration as a stand-alone module. This can leave participants feeling at a loss when the workshop ends. The workshops would probably be better run as part of an overall service providing support to people with dementia and their carers so that they can continue to participate in a network after the sessions have ended, or that would allow the continuation of the workshops after the initial six sessions had ended

  • “Role play was not great, I understood the thought behind the exercise but it didn’t do anything for me”

    Six sessions (which was what we delivered) is probably not enough to thoroughly explore the various types of reminiscence options available.  It’s more like a taster of reminiscence, which is good to give carers ideas of what they can do at home, but more sessions would probably have consolidated the experience for them. Also, it is takes group members several weeks to bond and form a cohesive group so the group is disbanded just as this has taken place

The main things that the carers in our groups learned about reminiscence


  • That the person with dementia did have something positive to contribute to conversations. One carer said that prior to the workshop, she used to ignore her husband’s comments when visitors came, as she thought he wasn’t really clued in enough to participate actively in conversations. After the sessions, she realised how much he could contribute, especially when it came to talking about bygone times. She also realised how interesting he was and what a font of knowledge he was on certain topics.

  • “Amazed such a thing could exist. Instead of being pushed in the corner, our situation was worth building on”

    That using themes is a good way of introducing variety into everyday activities.
    Reminiscence can help an otherwise withdrawn person to become quite animated and wanting to participate in an activity.

  • That using alternative methods of communicating eg mime, song, music, dance etc can allow a person who can’t communicate verbally to participate in an activity and can motivate them to want to do more activities.

What the people with dementia in our groups gained from the project:


  • A feeling of being part of a group instead of feeling excluded

  • Increased self-esteem from having their contributions acknowledged and appreciated by others

  • “We found it helpful and, in the short term, getting good feedback from each other. I enjoyed meeting others”

    Increased self-esteem when they talked about past achievements, which were then discussed by other members of the group, who asked the person for details about these achievements

  • A sense of achievement in participating in activities where they can be successful, eg., dancing, singing, showing their past awards/medals, quizzes about former film stars, singers etc

  • Enjoyment in participating in activities that they enjoy, eg., dancing, miming, singing, going to Art Galleries etc

Future plans

Plans for future reminiscence work in dementia care:

As we are primarily a research group without any resources to run workshops, we will unfortunately not be in a position to continue running these sessions or to carry out further reminiscence projects.


Our other RTRT group

View the project report from our partner organisation: Donegal

Using the arts

Using the arts in our reminiscence groups

We used singing and dancing as a way of allowing people who were often unable to communicate verbally, to feel connected to the group, participate in the activities and gain a sense of enjoyment and increased self-esteem. We also did a session using mime to explain people’s previous occupations. This proved very popular as people who were unable to express themselves verbally were quite good at miming their jobs, so everyone felt they could contribute to the session and the experience was enjoyable for everyone involved.


Benefits: the arts are a way of allowing people, who might otherwise not be able to engage fully with others through the media of verbal or written communication, to participate in a group activity as an equal and valued member of the group.

The arts also allow such a person to feel enjoyment which comes from doing an enjoyable activity but also being successful at it. So for example, a person can sing along to a well-known song even if they can’t articulate the words, and feel joy in the activity. This increases their feeling of well being which has a knock-on effect on how they interact with others.


Challenges: setting up sessions takes a lot of work, in the research stage, the organisation stage and the implementation stage, especially if you do not normally use the arts in your everyday work.

Gathering materials together is time-consuming and can be costly.

Sessions need to be well organised so that they run smoothly, so that people know what to expect and what they should/shouldn’t do, or sessions can be in danger of becoming too loosely defined and lose their impact or not achieve their goals.

Volunteers and workers also need to have clear guidelines on what their role is so that they don’t either become too involved in the activity themselves or stand back as observers instead of being facilitators.

Using the arts

Products we made

Our participants each made ‘memory boxes’ which they brought along to the group. They showed and shared some of the contents to the rest of the group, and they explained what they represented and answered the many questions other group members had about them. This process generated a lot of interest. Many people remembered the old photographs.

Contact us

Contact us

St James’s Hospital Board

Dr Suzanne Cahill
The Voice of Older People, Donegal

Marc McCollum

Lottery funded

Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.