The Golden Age of Hollywood


When researching into old Hollywood movies, colleagues were quick to call out their personal favourites, and often they were associated with fond memories. Here, we take a look at how these iconic films can help bring back special memories for a client with dementia.

The costumes, the hair and make-up, the iconic lines – who can resist quoting Humphrey Bogart’s: “Here’s looking at you, kid” – a Golden Age of Hollywood film can’t be beaten. Recently, there has been more and more research into the affects of movies, how they make for great memories and inspire good feelings about the care givers in a dementia sufferer’s life.


For those of you who are fans of these wonderful films, they can be of great benefit to clients with dementia; research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and carried out by a team of researchers in Scotland, has found that imagery of well-known movie stars of the day acted as a memory trigger and conversation prompt.

The team built a device, known as CIRCA (Computer Interactive Reminiscence and Conversation Aid), which comprises a touch-screen with easy-to-follow instructions for the user. During its development, CIRCA was tested on 40 dementia sufferers, in three situations; daycare, nursing home and in a familiar, family atmosphere. When switched on by the developers, the screen displayed a choice of three random categories for the user to pick from.

Upon choosing the ‘entertainment’ category, the user is then given the choice of ‘music’, ‘photo’, or ‘video’. These will then bring up images, video or sound clips from a database, corresponding to the user’s choice. The plan is for these media clips and photographs to act as memory triggers. There is a ‘stop and talk’ button for the client to press if they would like to chat about what they see or hear.

Upon testing the system, results were ‘encouraging’, with a great number of carers reporting that sufferers were like ‘their old self’ again. So, this is great evidence towards the benefits of using old films as conversation starters. 

Other research

Over in Woburn, Massachusetts in the US, non-profit organization Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) hold special movie evenings for their members. During the film, silence is not golden and viewers are encouraged to sing along to the classic movie musicals, quote their favourite lines, and even get up and dance in the aisles if they wish to!

These movie evenings had very positive feedback from the client’s carers, with many saying how their client left the evening with ‘a more positive mood than usual, and a greater attention span’ throughout the rest of the evening. The clients were more communicative and were much happier to engage with peers and happy to reminisce about their past. Program coordinator at ARTZ, Peggy Cahill, undertook a survey following one particular movie night and they showed that ‘even a week after the event [the clients] were still talking about it, asked to go again and encouraged others to join them’.

Watching these old films together with a client will not only benefit them, but are also proven to help tackle the feelings of isolation one caregiver might feel while working with a client with dementia, giving both a positive and fun subject to talk about.


When looking for the perfect movie to watch with a client with dementia, be sure to search for fun and upbeat films. It is best if they are shorter in length, and not violent or portray serious illness or death. Try to find a film which is simpler in plot and has fewer amount of characters. Find out more about how we provide home care for alzheimer's and dementia patients.

Photograph by Daniel Semenov

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