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BBC Archives Help With Reminiscence Therapy

Jake Berger Programme Manager, BBC Archive Development
Jake Berger
Programme Manager, BBC Archive Development

BBC RemArc helps with Reminiscence Therapy which assists people who have dementia, their carers and families, at home, in hospital wards or in care homes to interact and converse in a natural way by stimulating the patient’s long-term memory with material from the past.

It was created by the BBC’s Archive Development team with the help of experts at Dundee University, the University of St Andrews and with the support of Alzheimer’s Society.

BBC RemArc contains around 1500 items from the BBC Archives, including around 250 video clips, 250 audio clips and over 1000 images. The material ranges in date from the 1930s to the 2000s – much of it has not been available to the public for decades.

A number of years ago we were approached by Dr. Norman Alm from the University Of Dundee.  Dr. Alm had spent a number of years looking at how technology could be used to help people with dementia, their carers and families.

Amongst other symptoms, dementia affects the ability to communicate.  Without good communication, carers are left to infer intention and meaning from the person with dementia’s behavior.  Good communication is vital to building positive relationships between people with dementia and their carers.  Positive relationships in turn can lead to the person with dementia living a more fulfilled and enjoyable life, and to receiving a better level of care.dr who

Reminiscence work assists people with dementia to interact and converse in a natural way by stimulating their long-term memory with material from the past. It is often the case that long-term memory can still function when the person’s short-term memory is degraded.  Typically, people with dementia’s strongest memories are from when they were aged between 14 and 40 years old.

Tapping into long-term memory can make it possible once again for people with dementia to enjoy interacting with others, through their stories and memories.

But what is the best way to tap in to long term memories?  The research showed that ‘generic’ material – i.e. images and audio / video that are not personal to the person with dementia, were more effective at eliciting a reminiscence response, than, for example, family photographs and personal memorabilia.

We decided that we would design and build an online tool to serve archive content for use in reminiscence work – BBC RemArc.

You can choose to explore the items by decade, or by themes such as Childhood, People etc.

RemArc is available for free, globally, and works on all browsers. The RemArc software is available for free so that people can build their own reminiscence archives or reversion RemArc with new languages and culturally appropriate content.

The Alzheimer’s Society has been very supportive of the RemArc project from the outset, and they very kindly arranged for me to visit six of their Service User Review Panels (SURPS) around the country.

In summary, after spending time with 53 people with dementia, using RemArc, we found that they could use RemArc, they did seem to be enjoying it, and the archive content was triggering long-term memories, and reminiscences and conversations were beginning to emerge.


You can try it at http://bbc.in/remarc



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