Tayside and Central Scotland

BBC archive aid to trigger dementia patients' memories

Image caption More than 1,500 items from the BBC archive are available to patients

The BBC's archive is helping trigger memories among dementia patients with help from Dundee and St Andrews universities' researchers.

The BBC's online archive RemArc helps stimulates conversations between people with dementia and their carers.

It draws on photos, music, spoken word recordings and film from 1940 to 1980.

The universities' team advised on making best use of the archive with regard to psychology, design, and software engineering.

People with dementia can choose their own conversational path triggered by what is on the screen during the 20-minute sessions.

Dr Norman Alm from the Dundee and St Andrews computer interactive reminiscence and conversation aid (Circa) team said one of dementia's most distressing aspects was the inability of some patients to carry out simple conversations with relatives and carers.

He said: "With depleted short-term memory, people with dementia tend to repeat themselves endlessly and are unable to participate in a conversation.

"However, their long-term memories can be relatively well preserved. If the person's long-term memories can be prompted, they are able to enjoy relating events from their past."

'Hard work'

Dr Alm said that while it was possible for someone well-acquainted with the person's past to support them telling their stories, it can be "hard work."

He said: "We have devised ways in which the person with dementia and their carers can again enjoy a conversation, by having easy access to a carefully-designed structure holding a rich array of reminiscence content."

The BBC has made the software behind it open-source, meaning that archives and museums around the world could provide a similar service using their own material.

Jake Berger, from the BBC's archive development team, said: "We hope that amongst the 1,500 items from our archives that are available on RemArc, there will be something that triggers a reminiscence for everyone.

"Dr Alm and colleagues from the universities of Dundee and St Andrews have spent many years working in the area and we benefited hugely from their knowledge, experience and passion."

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