Anyone with even a passing interest in dementia care will be aware of the enormous benefits which are made possible with reminiscence therapy. Helping someone who is affected by dementia to look back upon the experiences of their early life can be hugely advantageous, enhancing their sense of self-worth as well as providing the reassurance of nostalgia. However, rarely has an attempt been made to engage with reminiscence on such an epic scale as Blackpool Victoria Hospital's Memory Corridor, currently the largest and most ambitious project of its kind in the United Kingdom.
The custom-designed walkway was made possible by the Blue Skies Hospital Fund, who contributed the programme’s £30,000 budget in order to enable people with dementia who are undergoing treatment at the hospital to engage with a fully interactive environment. At 72 metres long, the corridor is divided into seven separate sections, each reflecting a different aspect of Blackpool’s rich and varied history. What makes the project particularly inventive is the addition of artificial aromas alongside the sights and sounds of each specific area, adding an olfactory dimension to the experience. A visitor to the section of the walkway which focuses on Blackpool’s famous Pleasure Beach, for instance, will not only be greeted by sounds of fairground attractions and a wide variety of compelling imagery which evokes memories of carnival amusements, but will also be able to smell fresh confections and sweetmeats that have been enjoyed there for generations.
Although the Memory Lane premise has been implemented in other health care environments in recent years, never has a project been mounted on quite such an impressive scale. The Blackpool Memory Corridor’s sections include a wide range of different Blackpool venues such as the town’s famous circus, the Grand Theatre, and its seaside promenade. But there are areas to suit other tastes too, such as a sporting section and also a highly adaptable workplace environment which can call to mind a different range of memories depending upon the requirements of each individual experience.
Advising the designers throughout the project was Gillian Hesketh (http://www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk/), a specialist in reminiscence materials, who provided nostalgic imagery and artefacts of many different types in order to enhance the different areas of the Memory Corridor. Every aspect of her work on the initiative has been specially considered to provide meaningful catalysts for the engagement of people with dementia, bringing about the greatest possible potential to get people involved in the different aspects of nostalgia which are included in the display. As well as providing people who have dementia with a unique method of interacting with their past, this form of reminiscence therapy also offers a new opportunity for health care professionals to build caring relationships with patients while they are in hospital, as well as presenting a range of experiences which can help to make people with dementia more comfortable with their surroundings.
The Blackpool Memory Corridor was declared open by Blackpool football legend Jimmy Armfield CBE on Friday 23rd May. The official press release for the event can be found here