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Reminiscence Activities for Recreation Therapy

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bullet LifeBio

Submitted by Beth Sanders of LifeBio

Size of Group: 8-15

Equipment/Supplies Needed: 
Story Cards
Life Story Guides

Activity/Treatment Objective or Expected Outcome:  Building relationships through therapeutic reminiscence has been found to lead to higher life satisfaction, lowering depression, and lowering physical pain.

Description of the Activity: We suggest that people start a discussion with the LifeBio Story Cards (there are 104 relationship-building, unique questions). The answers to the Story Cards can be compiled onto a bulletin board that displays a group of people's answers to these fun questions -- young people could certainly help with asking and recording the answers.

LifeBio's Life Story Guide can be used to ask questions and to begin recording the person's life story.  Each participant who wants to fill out a Life Story Guide will be creating a lasting legacy of stories and memories to share with family and friends. Please note that the answers from the Life Story Guide can be entered online at The website provides templates of questions and creates instant biographies.   


bullet Question Ball

Submitted by Megan Irving- CTRS of Hawthrone House

Size of Group: 4-8

Equipment/Supplies Needed:  Beach Ball (with questions written on it in large print)

Activity/Treatment Objective or Expected Outcome:  For residents to read the question on the ball and answer the question to his/her best ability, to reminisce with group using the question read as a topic, to use hand-eye coordination when passing/tossing the ball to other individuals in the group.  

Description of the Activity: Gather a small group of residents in a circle and toss the ball to an individual. Direct the resident to the question that their right thumb is touching and have him/her read to the question to the group and then allow him/her time to answer. Before the resident tosses the ball to someone else, allow time for other members of the group to comment or answer the question as well.

Idea for questions to write on Question Ball:
Cats or Dogs?
Lake or Ocean?
Have you ever been to Europe?
What is your middle name?
Italian food or Mexican food?
What is your favorite color?
Have you ever been on a plane?
What was your favorite bedtime story?
Favorite subject in grammar school?
Summer or winter?
Beer or wine?
Do you like to dance?
What is your favorite season?
Red Sox or Yankees?


bullet Balloon Pop and Reminisce
submitted by Melanie Jaske of Mercy Harvard Care Center on October 19, 2007

Size of Group: 3 and Up

Equipment: Balloons in a variety of colors, Scissors or pin, Paper and pencil

Objective: Socialization, Reminiscing, Interaction

Description: Begin be writing a variety of reminisce questions/statements on small slips of paper.
Who taught you how to drive?
Tell us about your first date.
Describe the house you grew up in.
What was your first job?
Tell us about your best childhood friend.
What do you remember about your grandparents?

Place one slip into each balloon. Seat residents in a circle with balloon on the floor in the middle. Have one resident pick a color balloon. We have the staff pop the balloons with scissors as the residents don't like to do it themselves. The resident then answers the question. We will also go around the circle and have all residents answer. You then go to the next resident in the circle and have them pick a balloon.


bullet Memory Box
Submitted By Olwen Hutchinson Of Mind On March 28, 2009

Size Of Group: Small Or Large Groups

Equipment: Anything Old. I Got Mine Cheap From Ebay. Eg: Stone Foot Warmer, Chamber Pot, Old Advertising Ad's, Dressing Table Set, Flat Iron, Old Toys And Games.

Objective: It Helps To Unlock Memories Which Are Highly Valuable To Those Who Have Few Memories Left And Gives An Opportunity For Conversation.

Description: We Have A Group Circle For This Activity. Explain To The Group That You Have Brought Some Items You Would Like To Pass Round The Group. Take An Item Out Of The Box And Stand In The Center Of The Group So That Everyone Can See The Item. Encourage Conversation From Members As Each Will Have There Own Memories. Pass The Item Round The Group So They Can See And Feel The Items. Our Members Always Enjoy This Activity.†


The Senior Moments Game
Submitted by Lurline Morrow on December 14, 2003

Size: From 2-200

Equipment: The Senior Moments Game, available for $26 (incl S&H). Call (214)691-7694.

Objective: This game helps stimulate the memory and helps each person recall favorite times, places, events.

Description: This game is played on a game board. Dice are thrown, pawns moved, and cards drawn. All questions (200) are pertinent to life in the U.S. Anyone would have known the answer to these questions at one time in their lives. This game is suitable for people with slight to moderate memory loss.

Teddy Bear Tales
submitted by Linda Swirck of The Renaissance at Nohl Ranch Inn on October 08, 2002

Size: 15

Equipment: B.Y.O.B. - Bring your own Teddy Bear

Objective: Have room set up for sharing. Have teddy bear cookies and tea. Residents to share memories of their Teddy Bear.

Description: Sit around craft table or semi circle. Each person take a turn telling their memories of their favorite Teddy Bear. End with tea and Teddy Bear Cookies.

Grab Bag
submitted by Kelly Murman on Thursday, January 6, 2000

Size of Group: varied

Equipment: paper bag or box. small slips of paper

Objective: socialization, reminiscing

Description: Before the activity starts, take slips of paper and write a memory on each one.....First date......favorite winter activity.....favorite color......least favorite school teacher....etc. Place all the slips of paper in the paper bag or box. Seat the group in a circle, pass the bag around. Each time a resident picks a slip of paper, they answer the question on the paper...telling about their first date, that mean old teacher they had as a child, sledding down the hill in the backyard with their siblings.....It creates a great atmosphere of reminiscing and sharing.

I've also used the same idea to ask the residents to do silly things...Sing a song....Make a funny face....make the sound of a duck.....There are many variations. I've always had great groups with these programs.

Resident Activity Memory Book

submitted by Colleen Mcgowan of York Lutheran Home on October 14, 1998

Size: large

Equipment: large 1" binder, memory book pages, stencils, markers, camera

Objective: Remotivation/Reminder

Description: Residents will be asked if they want to participate in creating a activity memory book. They can decorate the front cover, and also sign their names on the first page. To add a special effect, the activity person can put sparkles over the signatures to make them stand out. The recreation assistant will tell the residents that this book will be used for anyone who wants to remember any activity that would take place at the nursing home that they enjoyed. The residents can remember activities that they want to remember. Examples of ideas to put in the scrap book would be special guests visiting, birthday parties, Christmas presents being opened, etc. A camera or a disposable camera should be made handy for pictures that could be taken. Be sure to follow confidentiality procedures. Make sure the book has a title on the spine and be put in a place where the residents can look at it.

Amusement Park Game

Submitted by Theresa Swider of ElderCenter on July 30, 1997

Size: 2 - 8


  • Large Empty Sheet Pizza Box
  • Colored Paper
  • Pictures Taken at Amusement Parks
  • Doll Clothespins and Stands
  • Dice
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Paint


  • Reminisce about amusement parks
  • Feel good about making own game and then playing it

Description: We divided this activity into 3 days. Each taking a half an hour to one hour.

Day one made two different color cards with backs that look like amusement park tickets, of course, must be very general. Then sat down and talked about what things happened at the amusement park that would be reasons to go forward and things that happened that would be reasons to go back. Then decided how far forward and how far backward each card would go. Example: Cutting in line go back 10 spaces. One color represent the forward file and a different color represented the backward file.

The next day we painted the clothes pins everyone picking their own color and then we drew a face on the pine.

The third day we pasted different colored squares around the game board including the colors of the cards made on the first day. (We also made the little squares look like the larger cards)

Then we pasted a collage of the amusement park pictures in the center of the board. We then glued two blank cards one of each color of the cards we had made on day one.

We each played the game with one of the dice and the player that we had painted. Moving ahead as the dice indicated and taking the appropriate card as we landed on the like square and following its directions.

Calendar Flashback

Size of Group: up to 6

Equipment: paper and pencil.... one for each participant

Focus: Reminiscence

Description: Participants are first asked to write down each year of his/her life (i.e., 1934, 1935,1936, etc.) in a single column (a sheet of paper with years already written would be helpful). Ask the participants to write down beside each year one or more significant event associated with that year. The event can be personal or something that happened in the world.

After the writing period, each participant can discuss with others specific years and events related to that year.

Alternative: instead of having everyone write, announce a year and discuss events from that year.

Traveling through USA Regions - submitted by Jean Lunt

Make a bulletin board or other display entitled "Ride the Rails through the USA". Each boxcar could name a region or area you plan to "stop and visit." For example, you might want to visit the Southwest Region while traveling on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe. While there you could "stop off" and try such ideas as water color painting while listening to the Grand Canyon Suite, making Indian beadwork, or paper mache maracas. You could make sand picture by adding food coloring and glue to play sand. Maybe you might want to try learning a simple line dance and munch on nachos while sipping ice tea and listening to country western music. If gambling is a favorite with some of your residents, include a trip to the Silver Dollar Saloon or Las Vegas.

Let your residents plan their train trip outlining the path on the US Rail map. Then decide where they would like to stop and visit. You can set your future activity schedule from that. Create excitement by getting the entire facility involved!

Trivia Game

1. In 1831 in the U.S. , what was carried by the railroad? Mail

2. What is the car called that has sleeping accommodations? Pullman

3. The final spike in the transcontinental railroad driven in at a ceremony at Promontory Pike was made of what metal? Gold

4. What was the name of the famous waitresses that served on those early trains? The Harvey Girls

5. Which two railroad companies did President Lincoln select to build the transcontinental railroad? Pacific Union and the Central Pacific

6. Who were the famous train robbing brothers? Frank & Jesse James

7. What is the triangular piece of the frame on the front of the locomotive called? A cowcatcher

8. Who is in charge in railroad yards to make sure trains are lined up in the right order? The yardmaster

9. Bill Cody earned his nickname by killing what for meat for the railroad workers? Buffalo

10. What was the nickname for the Irish immigrant workers? Tarriers

11. Someone bet that this black steel driller could pound holes in rock deeper and faster than the new steam drills. He won the bet but driller died as a result. They wrote a famous ballad about the driller as a result. They wrote a famous ballad about the driller. Who was he? John Henry

Hobo Party
Submitted by Jean Lunt of Jean Lunt - Desktop Publishing. Jean has for sale packets of themed activity ideas. The Railroad activities presented here are just a small fraction of the Railroads packet.

Have a scavenger hunt with residents assigned to teams. Give each team a bandana on a stick and a list of things to find. They could keep the items in the bandana until they finish. Give everyone at the party a balloon tied on a stick to resemble the hobo’s pack. Each table could be assigned a railroad line with its logo on the center or hung above the table. Give instructions to each team that will lead them from railroad to railroad collecting items for their scavenger list.


Share additional reminiscence exercises, activities, & protocols.

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