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Old Lake District photos helping dementia patients reminisce

Old Lake District photos helping dementia patients reminisce
20th October 2014

Photos dating back eight decades are being used to trigger memories among people with dementia.

About 800,000 people in the UK have been formally diagnosed with dementia, which is a catch-all term for a group of symptoms that may include loss of memory and difficulties with language or problem-solving. Just under two-thirds of those living with dementia are affected by Alzheimer's disease.

There is currently no cure for the progressive condition, but a series of images taken between the 1930s and 1960s by little-known photographer Joseph Hardman are helping people with the disease to reminisce about experiences from earlier in their life, reports the BBC.

Nearly 5,000 glass negatives capturing daily life across the Lake District - from landscapes to old-fashioned farming equipment - were donated to the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry in Kendal, Cumbria by Hardman's wife on his death back in 1972.

By being shown the pictures, people in the region living with dementia are forming their own memories about the images as part of a series of sessions run over five weeks by Anne-Marie Quinn, who works for Lakeland Arts.

Participants travelled all over the Lake District, just like Hardman himself - although unlike him, they took taxis everywhere. They ate tea and cakes that were popular with the photographer, as well as visiting some of his favourite locations.

One trip through Bowness in heavy traffic led one person to reveal they had always wanted to live by the lake, followed by stories about how she had once grown a garden; she was even able to name the different types of tree in it.

"It just triggered really valuable conversation that gave you a sense of this person, rather than this person with dementia," Ms Quinn explained. "That was really powerful."

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.