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All aboard the memory bus in Devon
People in Devon with dementia and their carers are climbing aboard a vintage 1959 double-decker bus as part of a project assessing the benefits of reminiscence therapy. Conceived and led by psychologist Dr Ruth Darvill, the project is funded by the National Lottery and run in association with Age UK.
Two groups of 20 people (10 patients and 10 carers) are being taken on six themed trips. For example, a visit to Sidmouth began with the singing of old songs en route, followed by a Punch and Judy show on the beach. Participants then took turns sharing their memories, which are to be collected in a memory book.
'As soon as people get on the bus, they talk about their memories,' Darvill told us. 'The smell of the diesel and the feeling of the bus as it starts to move, takes people back in time instantly. It's a very multisensory experience.' The driver's and conductor's vintage uniforms and props, including an original ticket machine, add to the sense of theatre.
'There's plenty of research on the benefits of reminiscence therapy for people in care homes,' Darvill explained, 'but not much involving people in the community. These are people who usually receive very little support.'
Darvill is working with Professor Cath Haslam of the University of Exeter to evaluate the impact of the memory trips, which will involve measures of cognitive ability, social support, mood, identity and carer stress. The final trips are planned for April 2012, after which Darvill and Haslam will begin writing up their findings. 'We're hoping the scientific evaluation will demonstrate the impact of the memory trips and help attract more funding,' Darvill said.
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