ARMSTRONG, C.M., 2016. Combining reminiscence therapy with oral history to intervene in the lives of isolated older people. Counselling Psychology Review, forthcoming.
Context and Focus: The population of the UK and Western Europe is ageing. With a more mobile workforce, the number of older people with little contact with close family is increasing. Charities working with isolated and lonely older people need interventions that facilitate contact with this population. Older people often resent the concept that they need charity and respond better to initiatives valuing their knowledge and skills, without patronising them. Oral history researchers want to reclaim the hidden voices of the elderly population before their memories are lost. These voices and memories can be recorded for the future, and shared with the rest of society. Cultural and social changes taking place over a life span are often significant. As Boden and Bielby (1986) described reminiscence: ‘these long past slices of life are frequently used interactively to contrast “the way it was” with “the way it is”’. Using such techniques bringing together isolated elderly with school children makes both groups feel included, valued and part of a community. This is supported by evidence from Duffin (1994) who found that older female participants felt validated by being viewed as social historians. Intergenerational activities designed to allow participants to share experiences and wisdom, and to discover similarities and differences across the generations, are especially rewarding. Conclusions: This interdisciplinary literature review summarises evidence indicating that intergenerational reminiscence therapy can be used to improve the wellbeing of isolated older people and suggests avenues for future study.