House of Memories

A while back there was a report on the radio about an unique museum in Denmark that doesn't really explain history as much as encourages the visitor to experience history. 

This museum is not open to the general public but to groups of elderly suffering with dementia and Alzheimers.  The museum is an exact reproduction of an apartment in the 1950's, during the time when those who visit would've been in their teens and twenties.  

It has been discovered that associative memories- smells, sights, sounds, touch that we associate with certain experiences- help retrieve the "reminiscence bump."- that teens and twenties time of early memories.   For those who are suffering from Alzheimers/dementia they need to by-pass strategic retrieval of the memories.  Instead they need to jump the executive process and go directly to that "bump". Sensual associations are the key to unlocking those memories. 

One of the reasons this retrieval is important, is that it allows those who are suffering from memory loss, feel as if they are still useful.  They can explain for what some of the past items were used and what they did.

"When people are old and with dementia, we are taking too much care of them," says Henning Lindberg, who came up with the idea for the House of Memories. "[We say] 'Sit down. Do you want coffee? Can I get a blanket?' No! If you want coffee, make it yourself! Of course, it will take double the time to make those things, but it doesn't matter because they will be useful again. It's what they tell us again and again and again — 'I'm so happy I could be used.' "

Who doesn't want to feel useful?  I know most people will express that if they cannot do "such and such" they might as well be gone.  The "such and such"  is usually an activity that makes the feel alive, human and useful.  

What is it about humans and our feeling of usefulness?  Is that what separates from all other living beings?  How about you?  Do you have loved ones that need to feel useful?  How would you go about including them into your day to day?  What things can they contribute to your household?  What are you learning from them? 

Are you building a house of memories?