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How to use this website
with elderly people

This website is packed with recollections from ordinary people who lived in the first part of the 20th century, and it contains their photographs and other related photographs from museums.

talking to an elderly person

So the website works well for providing talking points with elderly people who will remember much of what is here. In this respect, it meets a need because developing animated interaction with elderly people can be difficult.

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The problems

All too often, time with some elderly people can drag because it is difficult to know what they would and could enjoy talking about. This was certainly my experience with my mother towards the end of her life and with other elderly relatives on duty visits or when trying to extract information for family history purposes. Others reported the same problems.

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A solution through photographs

I and others who were researching family history my behalf, found that an excellent way to get elderly people talking was to take along a collection of photos, to show the top one and to say something like, "I thought you might like to see this".

There may be one of several reactions to the photo. If you are lucky, it alone will generate a flood of reminiscences. More likely, though, the elderly person will need time to get his or her mind in gear for answering. So wait awhile. Do not rush. Even when they do start reacting, just nod encouragingly and wait for more information which will probably come. If not, go on to the next photo and repeat the process.

Now for why it is important to have a collection of photos: By the time that you have reached the end, the elderly person's mind should have got into focus. So place each photo at the back of the 'pack' and work through them again. This time, you may well find that photos that stimulated no reaction first time round, now do.

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A better solution with a tablet or laptop at full-screen

The main problem with photos, though, is that they tend to be too small to be examined closely by anyone with failing eyesight, and the light may not be good anyway. So there is significant value in having the photos as images on a tablet or portable computer. The images can be made full-screen, and computers and laptops have their own light.

I digitised so many photos for this purpose that they were my stimulus for my first website on my family history on my mother's side, the Cole Potteries in Tottenham. If you want information for genealogy purposes, you will probably have to digitise your own photos.

If, however, you simply want to know how your ancestors used to live, or to have an animated conversation to make a visit pass enjoyably, that is where this website can help.

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This website for generating animated interaction

Stimuli for mild dementia sufferers

This website can probably be used as described on this page to provide photographic stimuli for dementia patients. This occurred to me during a TV programme which reported that 'mini rooms' of furnishings from a few decades ago had been bought by the NHS for use with dementia sufferers. The idea was that as dementia sufferers' long term memories are better than their short-term ones, the 'rooms' would stimulate them in some way. So I thought, if a 'room' why not pictures? This website is packed with pictures from a few decades ago. Furthermore it is available without charge anywhere where there is internet access.

If you do try using the website with someone with mild dementia, I would be grateful for your reactions. Using the website with elderly people, as described on this page, is tried and tested. Its use with dementia sufferers is, as yet, only a plausible idea.

Pat Cryer
webmaster

The value of this website is that it has over 500 pages of photographs, recollections and commentaries relating to everyday life when the elderly person was living his or her life to the full. So there is no need to digitise your own photos. Just use the ones on this website and or read aloud the text on the pages.

Where to start? Well, it will be best if you know something about the elderly person's life. Did they, they parents or friends, for example, ever live in an old Victorian house or a 1930s/40s suburban house; were they air raid wardens on in the Home Guard in the Second World War; did they use air raid shelters or gas masks; or cook with old kitchen utensils; or watch the family wash; or travel by steam train? Have a look at the top menu of this website and its pull-downs for many more ideas. Most of these links open up to show side menus which will suggest further ideas. Or use the search box to see if something you particularly want is illustrated or discussed somewhere.

Good luck!