Creating the Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing project toolkit

7th December 2020

Authors: Professors Lisa Shaw and Julia Hallam, University of Liverpool
 

In this blog, Professor Julia Hallam and Professor Lisa Shaw (authors of the new book Movies, Music and Memory: Tools for Wellbeing in Later Life) talk about the development of their ‘Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing toolkit’ which is linked to the book. This downloadable ‘best-practice’ toolkit (available on the book’s webpage under ‘Online resources’) contains tips and materials relating to film and music-related activities for use by professional and family carers for people with dementia.

We got to know each other as colleagues at the University of Liverpool, Lisa in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures and Julia in the Department of Communication and Media, through a shared interest in film research, and became great friends. We first had the idea of the Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing project when we both had older parents in need of care, and Lisa's dad was living with early-stage dementia. We started by teaming up with a care home in Liverpool and a GP practice in Brazil, organising film club activities – but with a difference. In our visits to care homes when looking for somewhere for our own parents to live, we noticed how DVD collections, TVs and Internet resources linked to film were underutilised and generally restricted to screenings of long feature films which failed to keep the attention of the residents and involved no interaction, discussion or complementary activities.

So, we decided to organise reminiscence sessions organised around a variety of short film clips instead, using different kinds of films, including local films and musicals to engage people, and following each clip up with open questions and prompts such as music, photographs of local cinemas and props to stimulate the exchange of reminiscences they had triggered. We soon realised that these sessions had a very positive effect on the emotional wellbeing of those involved, including those living with a dementia diagnosis (and sometimes the care workers themselves too!) This led us to develop the Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing toolkit for use in day care and residential settings. We created two DVDs of local film clips to accompany the toolkit, with the help of North West Film Archive and amateur film collectors on Merseyside and in Greater Manchester. (Lisa also created a Portuguese-language version for use in Brazil, with a disc of clips of musical films starring the likes of Carmen Miranda!)

The toolkit is designed as a set of laminated flip cards, held together by a ring that can be used to hang them on a hook in an office or alongside a TV set/DVD player. The first part of the toolkit makes the case for holding an event, with photographs and quotes from previous participants (useful if anyone needs to argue for additional funding or other kinds of support for an event). The separate, detachable cards mean that presenters can choose which pages they wish to refer to during the event, and in which order, using them as prompt cards where necessary. The toolkit includes a clear explanation of the role of the presenter and a checklist for the equipment that is needed. It has a list of potential questions about each of the clips for those using the accompanying DVD and features general questions that can be asked about any clips screened from YouTube or similar sources. There are various suggestions for additional activities that can accompany a film event, such as making posters or simple costumes or hats, or creating a quiz to accompany the clips. Finally, there is a list of relevant online resources, providing access to photographs, films, and other useful information.

We receive a growing number of requests from individuals and organisations to provide copies of the Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing toolkit and to train people to use it. As anyone working in the care sector or looking after a loved one will testify, cost-effective, time-saving and easily implemented workshop solutions are of huge benefit to people and their carers. We are developing at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Continuing Education a ‘Short Course for Carers: Music, Movies and Memory Tools for Wellbeing in Later Life’. This is aimed at anyone caring for older people, including those living with a dementia diagnosis.

Since the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic Lisa has created a Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing Facebook page. Here, weekly 'Workshops' are organised around short film clips which we think will trigger positive memories, together with questions aimed at stimulating the sharing of reminiscences. Even if people are at home alone, they can tell us about their memories by writing in the 'comments' boxes underneath each clip. Each Monday we add another set of ‘workshop’ clips and questions, and these can be accessed at any time. There is also a short video on the Facebook page in which Lisa explains a little more about the project and how to use the clips.

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