Being aware of the world around us and reflecting on experiences helps us to appreciate what matters to us, and to savour the moment and make the most of every day.
Ever wondered what it would be like to write your own book of memories, or about things that meant something to you and your family?
Thanks to our involvement in a project at Bristol University, residents will soon have access to a new way to share their experiences.
When Helen Manchester and her team from Tangible Memories at Bristol University asked the staff at Blaise Weston Court in Bristol if we would like to get involved in their project, we were very pleased to say yes.
The Tangible Memories project works with older residents to help them use digital technology to recreate their life stories. As well as being a great way to recreate and store memories to share across generations, it can help people adapt to the changes that come with getting older. The team have created an iPad app (a form of computer program) that allows you to create a digital ebook that can be read on a computer or digital device, and can be printed as an actual hardcover photo book.
You can use it to create a series of pages, complete with photos and text. If the information has been recorded, your Tangible Memories book can also include a digital bar code, known as a ‘QR code’. QR codes appear as a black and white square, which can be scanned with a smartphone or tablet to access a web page on the internet. In this case, if you point your phone at it, it opens a particular page in a memory book.
At Blaise Weston Court, four residents have used the app on an iPad to create amazing books. They had never used this technology before. Lynne, their estate manager, worked with the team from Tangible Memories and they came up with more ideas along the way. The plain room they were meeting in has now been transformed into a memory parlour after people talked about the way objects create stories and can be very meaningful.
Helen’s team designed wall art with a map of Bristol. They re-covered the chairs, changed the curtains and created an old sink area. The team, which includes residents, staff and the project’s artists, spent hours finding objects from past decades, from hats to tins to old posters.
Helen said: 'It has given us a really enjoyable space to share memory journeys with friends and family – and a tool for some fantastic intergenerational work with children.'
You can download the free Tangible Memories - Story Creator for iPad at the App Store.
We will continue to work with Tangible Memories as more exciting ideas come forward, such as a rocking chair for people living with dementia, which can hold their memories for them and play them back.
We’re in the early stage of planning some training for estate teams to help residents use these technologies. In the meantime, residents can ask their estate manager to help them to download the app and have a try at using it. We can also start a local group at an estate.
On hearing good reports of their service, Estate Manager Val Harber asked a Sussex-based owl society to pay a visit to Hanover Walk in Storrington. Owls About Town owns 20 of the birds, all of which are named after politicians.
Around 40 residents were able to handle the owls and watched ‘Boris’, ‘Nigel’ and their chums perform a variety of aerial acrobatics.
Val Harber said: ‘Hanover has great experience as a pet-friendly housing provider, and we appreciate the joy and therapeutic benefits that pets can bring. For those who do not have their own, we arrange for visitor pet services to come and see our residents.’
Andy Kendall, Owls About Town proprietor, said: ‘With the collective noun for owls being a “parliament”, we felt it natural to name ours after politicians. Whether or not they resemble their namesakes in character, we let others decide!
‘While we visit all sorts of venues with our owls, we always enjoy our trips to retirement housing estates. We can tell it works wonders for the morale of residents.’
Resident Diane Fletcher agreed: ‘It was lovely to see these stunning creatures in full flight. Hanover Walk has a lovely atmosphere and is enhanced further when we have visitors like this.’
Back in May 2016, Simon Bebbington, an estate manager from Hanover Court in Castle Cary, undertook for charity an ancient pilgrimage in northern Spain.
Starting in the French Pyrenees, the month-long trek went across a region known as the Camino Frances. It finished at the world-famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Simon decided to dedicate his 485 mile trek to two charities very close to his heart, namely Help for Heroes and Macmillian Cancer Support.
Regarding Help for Heroes, Simon said: ‘The sacrifice our servicemen and women make on our behalf is incomparable. I think the least I can do is support those who have such a need from the physical and mental scars they receive.’
In choosing Macmillian Cancer Support, Simon decided to support an organisation that has helped many Hanover residents over the years.