Nursing Home’s Retro Rooms Help Dementia Patients Remember the Past


For patients with Alzheimer’s disease, sensory cues involving sight, sound, and touch can be used to rouse otherwise hard-to-reach memories. One elder-care facility in Pennsylvania has tapped into this idea of “reminiscence therapy” using rooms that emulate the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.

In the dementia wing of the Easton Home, Alzheimer’s patients can lounge in the vintage kitchen furnished with a cast-iron stove and wringer washing machine, or dance in the living room where there’s a wood-paneled radio (actual music is played from an iPod hidden inside the radio cabinet). A neighboring hallway is lined with images and memorabilia that evoke memories of travel, marriage, parenthood, fishing, the military, and cars, with small signs offering prompts like, “How did you learn to drive?”

This nursing home isn’t the first to offer specialized memory units for patients with Alzheimer’s. The Cedar Lake Village retirement community in Olathe, Kansas, is building an assisted-living facility that will feature a 1968 Ford pickup in the courtyard. In the UK, residents can take a stroll down Grove Care Ltd.’s “Memory Lane,” which features a pub, post office, and grocery store inspired by the 1950s.

There are about 5.3 million people with Alzheimer’s in America today, and that number is only expected to increase as the Baby Boomers age. While reminiscence therapy isn't a cure, it has been shown to improve mood and curb agitation in patients with the disease. “It takes them back to a place that they’re familiar with and they can talk about their stories and share their experiences,” Easton Home's community life coordinator, Jennifer Woolley, told the Associated Press. “You’re just walking into the past and they love it.” 

[h/t: Morning Call