A spontaneous engagement program using reminiscing triggers (objects) to initiate conversation in a non-group setting. A bag of meaningful objects is carried through common areas when residents are "unengaged." Each object is shown and discussed, "I had one of these, did you?" or "I have something I'd like to show you, would you like to see?"


Gather items that will trigger memories and spark conversation based on the age/cohort that you will engage. These need to fit into the bag that you will carry. Popular items include kitchen utensils and containers such as a metal ice cube tray or egg beater. Tools, school days supplies, gardening implements, transistor radios, quilts, jewelry, sewing supplies, beauty products, vintage sports equipment, toys, fashion accessories, and automobile supplies/equipment are just a start. Select an assortment (3-4) of objects and put them in the bag.  Use declarative sentences to talk about the object. For example, "I had a transistor radio like this, I got it for Christmas.  I used to put it under my pillow and listen when I was supposed to be asleep." Use questions sparingly to alleviate a right or wrong approach. The goal of this activity to encourage "no demand" activity interactions by triggering a thought or opinion. Scripts or stories can be used as items are shown.

Group Size Time of Day Duration Acuity Level
1 on 1
Small (2 - 4)
Any As Needed Memory Care
Facilitator Gender
Any Coed
Wellness Domains

Social, Emotional


There are abundant resources available for reminiscing from many companies.  However, many of the reminiscing ideas and props can be found in thrift stores, garage sales, used book stores and on the internet.  Facilitators require training to use the following strategies.

Remind of the social and cultural landmarks of the time (use time lines)
Use “retrieval cues”, props that can be handled, smelled, listened to, looked at
Repeat participants names and repeat what was said
Use the NCFC (Touhey, 1996) approach:  (N)recite name, (C)give a compliment, (F)state the fact, (C)make a conclusion.  Example:  Natalie, that took “guts” to play hockey on an all boys team. Thanks for sharing, risks like that make us feel proud.
Do not rush the process,
Explore the memory in detail
Discuss positive emotions attached to the memory
Use touch as a communication tool
Recall successes; help remind them of what they are.
Voice positive traits and patterns
Repeat past accomplishments with admiration
Ask for advice and wisdom from the experiences
Validate good choices, caring actions, strength of character, hard work, relationships with others, attitude and sense of humor.

Supporting Research

Reminiscence is discussing and sharing events from the past. It is a way “to recreate what has gone before, embellish, intensify, relive aspects of their lives that gave great pleasure.” Working with the Elderly.  Irene Burnside


It is a powerful tool that can be used for many positive outcomes. Reminiscing activities can be done individually or in a group.  Group reminiscing is recommended because of the benefits that are derived by sharing of stories.  The value of telling life stories includes:  Helping the participants to:

Understand the uniqueness of being part of an “exclusive group” a cohort.
Feel good about their past and present accomplishments
Look at their life patterns and see the legacies they have given
Realize that they have made a contribution to others
Maintain a sense of identity, a validation of their special strengths and interests
Maintain self-esteem in the face of declining health
Gain support from others in facing life challenges



Good For

Dementia, Depression, Isolation


Pictures can be used that can be shown 1-1 or taken into a room.

Items can be shown and not touched.


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