Remembering, reminiscing for dementia with objects

Evoking memories in clients with dementia can be done by asking questions, looking at photos, but also by showing and feeling objects. It is ideal to combine these methods. But when it comes to objects: what conditions must objects meet to stimulate the memory of elderly people with, for example, Alzheimer’s? Does using items have added value over showing images? Which objects can be considered in reminiscence? And, not unimportantly: where can you get useful useful things for triggering memories in people with dementia?

Conditions for reminiscence objects

If the use of objects to awaken memories in elderly people with dementia is to be successful, these objects must preferably meet a number of criteria.

Recognizability of the objects for people with dementia

Old objects are easier to recognize than modern
objects. Items that are suitable for stimulating the memory of people with a form of dementia must first and foremost be easily recognisable. Objects are recognizable if they occurred when these clients were young (their youth or young adulthood) and if they are real. But that does not mean that you necessarily have to purchase antiques from an antique dealer! Because then financing becomes a major problem.
Counterfeit objects, but in the correct size
You can also use counterfeit objects, but they must meet certain requirements. Otherwise the chance of recognition becomes smaller. For example, the dimensions of the counterfeit items that you display and distribute must correspond with the authentic items .
Imitation objects, but with the right colors
An object you show is easier to recognize if the colors of the object are correct. A green cuddly crocodile is easier to recognize than a pink crocodile, for example.

Safety and objects during reminiscence with Alzheimer’s

Another very important requirement is safety. If you pass on recognizable objects, the elderly should be able to hold them with confidence. Objects should not be sharp.
Small objects that look like something edible can be dangerous because people might put them in their mouths. Objects should also not be too heavy. Very fragile is also unsafe. If someone breaks something, he can hurt himself. Moreover, people can be very shocked if something breaks.

Does using things have added value over showing images?

Yes, sometimes. It is striking that some people with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, for example, recognize an object better than a picture of the same object. Apparently three-dimensional is sometimes more recognizable than one-dimensional. Tangibility may also make recognition easier.

rusk tin from Bolletje

Which reminiscence objects can you use: examples

  • A rusk tin from Bolletje
  • A preserving bottle
  • A book by Dik Trom
  • A bottle of Boldoot (eau de cologne) or 4711
  • Boerenbont tableware (a cup or plate is enough)
  • A gingham handkerchief
  • A Van Nelle coffee can with Piggelmee on it
  • A hammer
  • A bread bin
  • A coffee grinder
  • A can of Droste Cacao
  • A can of Haagse Hopjes
  • A rocking horse
  • A toll
  • A skipping rope
  • A roll of King peppermint
  • A slate
  • A knitting needle case

And so on. After these tips you will know what to look for.

How do you get affordable reminiscence objects?

You may be thinking: ‘That’s all well and good, but where can I get a rusk tin from Bolletje or a can of Droste Cacao? And 4711, is that actually still being sold?’ Or you think: ‘Didn’t I still have a Van Nelle coffee tin with Piggelmee on it somewhere in the attic and mother’s gingham tableware, that’s also there?’ So you have to search, or better said, you have to hunt!

  • Take a look around your own home: in the basement, in the attic
  • Ask family, friends and colleagues
  • Search thrift stores
  • Visit second-hand shops, such as Terre des Hommes shops
  • Go to a flea market
  • Visit an auction
  • And if necessary, go to an antique dealer…
  • Search the internet at sites like Marktplaats


Conclusion about working with recognizable objects when retrieving memories with people with dementia

Choosing your objects carefully and using them appropriately in reminiscence can increase the success and enjoyment of such an activity.

read more

  • Reminiscing/reminiscing in dementia: reasons
  • Retrieving/reminiscing memories in dementia: Themes
  • Reminiscing/retrieving memories in dementia: methodology
  • Reminiscence in dementia: stimulate all senses
  • Elderly people with dementia: making contact to communicate
Scroll to Top