Teaching Elaborative Reminiscing to Support Autobiographical Memory and Relationships in Residential and Community Aged Care Services

Publication Name

Brain Sciences


Memories of the past are critically important as we age. For older adults receiving formal care in a range of settings, reminiscing with care staff may provide frequent opportunities for re-calling autobiographical memories with a supportive conversational partner. Importantly, prior research suggests that some reminiscing conversations are more supportive than others. In the developmental literature, a long tradition of sociocultural memory research` has shown how children’s autobiographical memory is scaffolded and supported by parents during reminiscing, when parents use a particular kind of conversational technique, known as “elaborative reminiscing”. In the current project, we aimed to examine whether we could enhance conversations between staff and older people receiving aged care by teaching care staff about these beneficial conversational techniques and supporting them to reminisce more often with residents/clients. We also aimed to determine whether staff members’ use of elaborative reminiscing techniques was associated with autobiographical memory details recalled by residents/clients during routine conversations. We con-ducted a workshop with 16 staff within a residential aged care and community care setting. We followed this with a 4‐week training‐and‐feedback period during which staff recorded their conversations with residents and clients. Staff feedback indicated successful use of the scaffolding techniques overall, and benefits as well as barriers to their use in day‐to‐day practice. Analysis of the conversations demonstrated that the use of particular elaborative reminiscing techniques by staff was associated with increased recall of episodic and semantic autobiographical memory details by residents/clients. Overall, findings suggest that the principles of elaborative reminiscing may apply across the lifespan, and that the benefits of elaborative reminiscing for autobiographical memory may be particularly important in times of cognitive need. Practically, training aged care staff in specific and practical conversational tools can facilitate reminiscing for people receiving aged care.

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

Macquarie University



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