Themed dining rooms with interactive and nostalgic displays are helping to improve the wellbeing and diet of dementia sufferers in care homes.

There are around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and, in many cases, their long-term memory is still working so nostalgic items and smells offer reassurance and prompts for conversation.

Gillian Hesketh, of Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design, explains: “Having spent many hours discussing meal-time approaches with residential home managers, day centre providers, meal delivery services and frontline carers, the most talked about issue after nutrition, was the difficulty in encouraging people to eat. “Dementia can affect a person’s relationship to food, impacting on their eating habits, meal-times and food choices. Even finding their way to the dining room can become difficult for some people. We believe that prompting the long-term memory with images of food and everyday mealtimes can help; a freshly cut loaf may signify the smell of newly baked bread and prompt tastebuds, preparing the person to eat. Taste, textures and conversational prompts around the subject of food, eating and food favourites can also help to encourage eating.”

Gillian is passionate about nostalgic environments for prompting social activity and creating community interaction. In one Stockport care home, she has created a nostalgic sweet shop, complete with counter, sweet dispensers, scales, curiosities, original magazines, nostalgic games and, of course, sweets. Encouraging able people to integrate with daily activities is another way to promote the idea of meal-times and eating, such as laying or clearing the tables, folding napkins, or adding flowers.