Fight Memory Loss with Movies

October 14, 2013
Movies can help bring back memories.

Movies can help bring back memories. (Photo courtesy of stockimages/

Everyone has a favorite movie or a favorite scene from a movie; most people have many. If you‘re taking care of an aging loved one, why not use the magic of movies to help fight memory loss, and perhaps create new memories along the way? Watching movies together can be a good way to stir old memories and form new ones.

Images linger in the mind

Rhett and Scarlett ascending the staircase, Gene Kelly jumping onto a lamppost as he sings in the rain, Janet Leigh screaming in the shower: these are iconic images from motion pictures that have become embedded in the public’s mind. Movies are a visual medium, and they linger in the mind because of the impact that individual images make. A person suffering from memory loss may not remember the name of a movie, but he or she may remember a key scene of image.

Movies mark a point in time

A movie that makes a strong impression on a person can help bring back memories that extend beyond just the movie itself. Memory loss may prevent a person from easily remembering a key period of time, but watching a movie from that period may help him or her to remember other things that occurred when the movie was first viewed: what the weather was like when he or she first saw the film or what the theater in which the film was playing was like.

Films can put a relationship into focus

Because many movies evoke strong reactions, watching them can help a person with memory loss put into focus actual relationships in his or her own life. Watching To Kill a Mockingbird may bring back memories of your mother’s own strong but fair father. Viewing Field of Dreams may help Dad remember trips to the ballpark with his brother. Experiencing Little Women may help your sister to recall the way you and she used to share secrets together.

Tips on picking a film

Watching a movie together with your loved one is a fun way to spend time together. It’s rewarding if for no other reason than that it provides the chance to relax and spend some “down time” with each other.

If you do want to try to use a movie specifically to help stem memory loss, here are some suggestions:

  • Pick a film that you know hasstrong meaning to your loved one. If Dad popped the question after seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s, choose that movie and talk about how we was so inspired by it.
  • Choose a movie that has characters that resemble people in your loved one’s life. If Mom’s sister was just like Annie Hall, watch the movie and then bring up ways in which the two resembled each other.
  • Remember which subjects and hobbies interest your loved one. Viewing How to Make an American Quilt can inspire Grandma to think about all those quilts she made over the years.
  • Select a film that relates to something current in your life. If your husband keeps forgetting that your daughter is engaged, laugh at Father of the Bride and use it to talk about the upcoming wedding.

Another benefit of movies: other people can watch them with you and help to start the conversation, adding their own memories or associations that may spur your loved one to recall even more things.

So what are you waiting for? Get some corn a-popping and start up the DVD player!

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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