The role of objects in supporting older adults with dementia to tell stories about their lives

Jayne Lloyd

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The article discusses the role objects can play in creative projects that aim to support older adults living with dementia in residential care settings to tell stories about their lives. The role of objects in the telling of these stories is explored through a discussion of projects by Stanislaw Przybylski, an animator based in Sweden, and by Age Exchange Theatre Trust, an arts and reminiscence charity based in London. The article draws on Jennifer Gonzalez’s concept of autotopographies to propose that collections of personal artefacts can be a significant form of self-representation. The role of objects in object-based storytelling practices is questioned through Bill Brown’s ‘Thing theory’ that proposes a difference between encountering recognizable objects and engaging with the materiality or thingliness of them. These theories are applied to the projects to question the role and significance of objects to the participants’ life stories and sense of self. The article proposes that the narratives of the stories relating to participants’ lives and the art-making process itself become fragmented and deconstructed when working with people with dementia and that arts facilitators with object-based practices may be particularly well equipped to respond to this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-186
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Arts & Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • dementia,visual arts,animation,reminiscence,life-stories,objects,Sweden

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