LifeTimes, The Game of Reminiscence

During the summer of 2010, we noticed a decline in our 86 year-old mother’s ability to process and retrieve current information. This also came with a noticeable change in her emotional state as she frequently appeared frustrated and agitated.

Visits with our mom in her seniors care residence, became challenging. Until we made a discovery. We noticed that talking with her about her past tapped into a part of her memory which was intact, rich, and sparked very positive interaction.

Accessing memories

We prepared for our visits with family photos from years gone by, music of her era and questions about specific events or times in her life. We witnessed her relax, light up, and become animated as she relived scenarios from her youth and as a young wife and mother. This experience changed the way we communicated with our mom and we began a systematic exploration of ways to access reminiscence.

Conversations with our friends experiencing similar frustrations with their aging parents, convinced us we were on to something, and the seed for our game was planted.

Two retired teachers

As retired teachers with the luxury of time on our hands, and over fifty years of teaching experience between us, we began the process of planning our project. Immersing ourselves in 1950s culture, we focused first on developing the game’s core values and then moved on to create a framework for the structure of the game.

Vintage family photos

After countless re-writes and revisions, and in collaboration with our graphic designer, Gord Adams, our prototype was created. Gord’s sensitive interpretation of vintage family photos and colour palette resulted in a beautiful, evocative product design.

Conversation cards

Lifetimes is 125 conversation cards with 500 memory prompts, presented with vintage photographs and graphics suggestive of the era.

Categories include:

Four aspects of memory

Four types of questions on each card are designed to ignite four different aspects of memory: fact recall, direct memory, reminiscence and discussion. These prompts invite storytelling and conversation in a range of topics covering day to day life. There are no right or wrong answers in Lifetimes. Every story is a personal one.

Prototype launched

When we launched our prototype at the Ontario Gerontology Conference in Toronto, we were struck by the need expressed by professionals and caregivers for a product such as ours.   Recreation therapists, occupational therapists, and personal support workers all believed our game could be useful to them as a tool to use as a foundation for life review programs.

Overwhelming response

When we offered our game for sale on our website, we were overwhelmed by the number of families who ordered a game to play with their loved ones. We also received many heartwarming stories from families thrilled to be able to communicate with their parent in a positive, enriching manner. Many people commented on the game’s value as a way to pass on family history.

“Playing Lifetimes is like being given a treasure map—a guided tour of your own family’s recollections that leads to unexpected riches.” Marthe Jocelyn, Stratford, ON

Reminiscence work isn’t a new concept. It has been around for many years as a way to increase feelings of self worth, combat a sense of isolation and deepen relationships amongst seniors and their caregivers. Our game simply offers a way to access reminiscence in a complete package.

MaRS clients

The world of business was new to us. We were thrilled and excited to be taken on as MaRS clients as members of their Social Innovation Generation sector. At MaRS, we were given opportunities to learn the intricacies of business and to interact with many young social entrepreneurs. Access to this knowledge helped us along our way.

Seniors Communities; Alzheimer's Society

Today, our games are being used in many recognized seniors facilities across Canada including the Alzheimers Society. We are available in several independent bookstores, at conferences and trade shows. You can also purchase the game at:

Lifetimes the Game Of Reminiscence is here for you. For your enjoyment, your rediscovery of family history, as an expression of love for an aging parent or to lighten your load as a professional care giver.

Mary Jane McPhee and Carol McPhee

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