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Reminiscence with older Irish people

Many may recall their journey and trying to find accommodation if it was not already arranged. People may recall the good and bad times of their first job and working life since. They may have mostly good memories of Irish dance halls and meeting their partner, getting married, settling down and maybe starting a family. 

Many may also revisit less happy times during the Troubles in the 1970s and 80s and they will often mourn the loss of family and friends back home. People may be happy if reminiscence sessions relate to current festivals such as Christmas, Easter Halloween, St Patrick’s Day but facilitators will often find that planned sessions might drift off course or be overtaken by a topic which the group find more interesting. (See our section on Religious Customs and Occasions for more on this).

In an ideal world it is probably best if a series of sessions are planned with input from those who will participate in them. Some people may feel unsure or concerned that “living in the past” could evoke unhappy memories. While nobody should be pressurised, our experience through Cuimhne suggests that given time, most people will join in and contribute to the best of their ability. People who may not be able to join in because they are unable or unwilling to speak can still enjoy listening to their peers. 

While any reminiscence session can take off in unexpected directions, there may be occasions where it might be helpful to have a few triggers to get people talking or to steer away from issues which might be painful. (See our page on the Risks of reminiscence HERE

It is useful to have items which trigger memories such as photos, memorabilia from the home, school or farm, songs or poems to listen to or opportunities to experience familiar smells or tastes.

It is possible to buy commercially produced memorabilia but they are not always relevant to Irish people. It is also more fun and effective to collect items which are culturally appropriate and relevant to the members of the group.