European Reminisence Network

Review of RTRT project: Germany

Germany RTRT

Memorable moments that took place in our RTRT group

  • “My mother talked to me in such a loving way that she never did before. So now we can better live and be together”

    A daughter who for the first time heard her mother say that she was proud of her

  • A person with dementia who had had a very severe stroke was so happy he could dance with his wife again (“I’d never have thought that I could do this again”)

  • When we played out “school days memories”, even those persons with dementia who normally hardly spoke, kept on doing their times tables

The main things we have learned


Successes to build on:

  • RTRTThe strong links that developed between participants

  • Relatives themselves enjoyed reminiscing about their own lives and saw it as a good way of getting a break from their preoccupation with their persons with dementia

  • Volunteers realized that people with dementia could be active – at least in certain situations – much more active than they had thought

  • Volunteers became more creative and more daring in how they interacted with persons with dementia

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • “That’s all very well for the others, but I think my husband/wife is to far advanced to get anything out of the group”

    We found it difficult to involve family carers if they were still working as they often felt that they had too little time

  • We found it difficult to make very old family carers understand what reminiscence is all about and how it could be used. They seem to be too much concerned about how they get along themselves and keep up the task of caring, so it was hard for them to discover the relief in anything  “playful”

  • There were some difficult family relationships with little practice in sharing information of previous life events

  • “When we are at home – or already in the car on the way back – she’s forgotten everything about the group”

    Family carers tend to compare their own person with the other participants and are likely to feel frustrated if their person cannot participate as actively as some others (especially if the group is quite heterogenous)

  • Some family carers keep expecting immediate improvements in their persons – in spite of being informed otherwise

  • Some family cares try very hard to make their person respond to questions/fulfill tasks and are frustrated if their person “fails”

  • To some volunteers the expectation to act very spontaneously to trigger memories was frightening. They preferred to stick to more familiar means of communication. Some tended to put pressure on participants to “produce” the memories that they felt were expected (e.g. they would stick rigidly to the topic of the meeting, even if the person with dementia preferred to communicate about something else)

The main things that the carers in our groups learned about reminiscence


  • They were offered topics to talk about that are not so full of pain and offered a break from their daily routine

  • They discovered unusual ways of communicating and expressing themselves

  • They found that they still remembered so many good things about their lives and that the people with dementia liked it when they shared these good memories

What the people with dementia in our groups gained from the project:

  • “It is the highlight of the week when we come here”

    They had a good time
  • They found ways of interacting playfully with their carers
  • They enjoyed the attention they received during the meetings


Using the arts

Using the arts in our reminiscence groups

We used a range of art in our groups including drawing; painting; dancing, singing; theatre and pantomime.

Benefits: getting away from asking too many direct questions
Involving persons with dementia in spite of their difficulties in speaking

Offering artists the opportunity to develop/improve their skills in working with persons with dementia

Producing something which participants can take back to use as a memory trigger and open up opportunities for them to talk about their situation, both past and present

Challenges: we need to find ways to involve artists who have had little experience in working with persons with dementia or even older persons

Non-artists don’t trust themselves to use the arts

To involve artists you usually need extra funding


Products we made

Life story books

Paintings that we created together on big sheets of paper


Future plans

Future plans

Plans for future reminiscence work in dementia care:

We plan to set up co-operation with psychiatric clinics.

We plan to offer a separate reminiscence group for family carers.

We propose to rely more on arts and non-verbal activities (especially dancing).

Our next RYCTT project

Our next reminiscence project can be viewed in the RYCTT area of the site: Click to view

Contact us

Contact us

Diakonisches Werk Kassel

Barbara Koblitz

Angelika Trilling

Lottery funded

Co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union

Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.