In recent years, neurologists and geriatricians alike have turned to the arts in search of new, creative methods of memory therapy and dementia treatment. Countless studies have found expressive activities such as writing, painting and playing or listening to music to be highly effective in memory care — but what about film? After years of observing and analyzing the positive effects of implementing creative pursuits in memory therapy, the question must be asked: Could film also benefit older adults struggling with memory loss? Cinema is just as creative, nostalgic and inspiring as any other form of art, after all; why shouldn't it be equally effective? Here's a closer look at how film may soon come to play a leading role in memory care and recovery.
You're probably familiar with the deep, pensive, wistful sensation that is nostalgia, but did you know that nostalgia is an essential part of treating dementia and Alzheimer's? Because of the way nostalgia stimulates the brain, the right song, television show or even photograph can unlock a treasure trove of memories that may have been lying dormant and forgotten in the subconscious for years.
This is the primary reason more and more geriatricians have begun including creative forms of expression as an integral part of memory care in recent years. Stirring a sense of nostalgia in those who struggle with memory loss and other dementia-related symptoms can reopen cognitive pathways that may have been previously inaccessible, bringing latent memories swimming back to the surface of consciousness.
You probably have a personalized roster of certain songs and stories that are deeply interwoven into the fabric of your life. In the same way, you may also have a deep connection with specific movies and shows; perhaps you stumble across them from time to time as you click through channels or peruse the selection available on your favorite streaming service. You stop to watch the preview, or catch a scene or two before the next commercial break.
No doubt the floodgates of your memory are thrown wide open from your cozy seat on the couch, and you're immediately whisked away to a bygone era. You vividly recall every detail of the first time you watched it — how old you were, where you were and who was with you. "Wow," you say, "what a blast from the past!" It may even seem like the older you get, the more powerfully this nostalgia grips you.
Imagine how this sensation might affect you if you struggled with memory loss. Something as simple as rewatching a quintessential movie or show that was defining for your generation or a staple of your childhood, adolescence or early adulthood could potentially restore years of memory, reconnecting you with an entire gallery of familiar faces, names and places.
Including close loved ones and old friends in film viewings can also help create an environment conducive to socialization and, by extension, further support memory treatment and recovery. While dementia and Alzheimer's can make socializing very difficult, it's nevertheless an absolutely crucial aspect of memory care as it increases the attention of the individual suffering from memory loss and awakens a sense of awareness and belonging.
Start by considering the time period your loved one grew up in and choosing a familiar film. For example, if they grew up in the '50s — a decade of immensely popular and critically acclaimed musicals — perhaps watching "Singin' in the Rain" or "Anything Goes" with them will yield positive results. Additionally, your loved one may find the musical numbers comforting and relaxing if they're anxious. Take care to choose an uplifting movie as well, as depression is also very common among those suffering from memory-related illnesses; any sort of gloomy show or jump scare should be avoided.
Some other things to consider when choosing what movie or show to watch with your loved one include:
Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, Doris Day, James Cagney, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Shirley Temple, Elvis Presley — the list could go on. These names, faces and voices defined American film culture for generations stretching from World War II to Vietnam. If you're unfamiliar with this era of film and the stars who made them, here's a list of recommended movies and shows from our caring staff at Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville to get you started in the right direction.