Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 5th of May 2020.
VE Day was celebrated for the first time on 8th May 1945 and marked the end of World War II in Europe. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary, and for many of those who remember the war or were around during those times it can be very important to celebrate and honour the occasion. For someone living with dementia who remembers VE Day, it can be an idea time to mark the occasion with activities and celebrations which could spark conversations and evoke memories.
Whilst there were meant to be a range of fun outdoor celebrations and parties to mark the 75th anniversary, the current circumstances mean this is unfortunately not possible, however there are a range of indoor activities which are perfect for marking the occasion, which are suitable for those living with dementia.
Listening to Music
Playing music from the era can help to spark memories, something which can then lead to conversations about memories from the time. Music can be a brilliant way to encourage reminiscence and can take us back to the time when we first heard the song or to a memory associated with it. Even if music does not spark any specific memories, it can still be incredibly soothing for those living with dementia, as it provides a sense of familiarity and often happiness when associated with good memories.
If listening to music does spark memories or conversation, use this to anchor a conversation about VE day or the times surrounding it; be conscious of any emotions the person may feel and explore these in a positive way.
Whilst many may not be able to be with extended family right now, picking up the phone and listening to some music and singing together can be a great way to mark the occasion. Why not arrange a call with family or friends and have a fun sing a long together; the phone doesn’t have to just be for making conversation!
Looking Through Photographs
In a similar way to how music can spark memories of the past, looking through old photos can also be brilliant for transporting someone back to a familiar time. Having a visual stimulation in addition to talking through the photographs can help to spark memories; there is an opportunity to do this whilst listening to related music to involve more sensory stimulation.
Talking through old photographs or pictures from VE Day and asking questions about them is a great way to spark conversations about the time they were taken. If the person has images of their own then you can use these, but for those who don’t general images from VE day or celebrations in the past, whether it be the first one of celebrations from years following, can all be beneficial to look through.
Baking and Cooking
Whilst war time rations meant some of the favourite traditional dishes weren’t found at VE Day celebrations, there were still plenty of delicious dishes served across the country on VE Day. Involving the person with dementia in the cooking and baking of these traditional dishes, or simply cooking it for them so they can enjoy a dish reminiscent of VE Day can be brilliant for marking the occasion.
Some of the favourites on the menu on VE Day were Dripping Sandwiches, Corned Beef Hash and Lord Woolton Pie. Sweet treats weren’t completely off the menu, but most were eggless as eggs were hard to come by at the time! Serving some of these traditional wartime dishes can help spark conversations of the past and are great in terms of sensory explorations as cooking and eating involves smells, tastes and textures aplenty.
If you manage to get your hands on some decorations, you could serve food on themed plates or hang bunting; you could even create your own decorations as part of an arts and crafts activity! Why not hang bunting or flags in your garden and call up your neighbours and ask them to do the same and schedule a time to go to your door or window for a community socially distanced sing along. Remember to take part in activities which bring joy and be mindful of abilities and emotions to ensure a great day is enjoyed by all.