Cinema, Memory and Wellbeing

Poster advertising the project’s public event at the Museum of Liverpool, 11 July 2015 (left)
Participants and social worker involved in the project in Petrópolis, Brazil (right)
Poster advertising the project’s public event at the Museum of Liverpool, 11 July 2015 (left) - Participants and social worker involved in the project in Petrópolis, Brazil (right)

Background

This project grew out of research carried out by Dr Lisa Shaw (Department of Modern Languages and Cultures) on popular cinema in Brazil in the 1940s and 1950s, and by Professor Julia Hallam (Department of Communication and Media) on the AHRC-funded ‘City in Film’ projects, which focused on the city of Liverpool’s representation in cinema. As part of her research for the book Carmen Miranda (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Lisa became aware of the power of film to generate a sense of wellbeing, particularly among older people.

The Project

This project uses film to promote wellbeing among the elderly via the stimulation of memory. The first stage involved screening two audio-visual presentations in BUPA’s Rowan Garth nursing home in Anfield, Liverpool. The first presentation, designed by Lisa, focused on musical films of Brazilian Hollywood star, Carmen Miranda. The second presentation, designed by Julia, focused on films shot in Liverpool during the 1960s.

We are always looking for ways to help our residents maintain community connections and feel part of the wider city around them – which this project did.

- Ruth Neeson, Activities Coordinator at Rowan Garth nursing home

Ruth Neeson, Activities Coordinator at Rowan Garth nursing home said: “It was great to introduce our resident group to new and interesting people and encourage conversation, interest and social engagement. We are always looking for ways to help our residents maintain community connections and feel part of the wider city around them – which this project did. The project was also of genuine interest to the staff supporting our residents and encouraged reminiscence across generations.”

The project also involved screening an audio-visual presentation at the Fazenda Inglesa Health Centre in Petrópolis in Brazil. Designed by Lisa, this presentation consisted of excerpts from Brazilian musical films of the 1950s. The audiences’ responses to the screenings were filmed on video and well-being questionnaires were completed before and after. An 88-year old Brazilian participant commented: “I travelled in time today. It was marvellous!”

Simone Silva Oliveira, a social worker at the Fazenda Inglesa Health Centre explained: “This project with the elderly was a surprising and gratifying experience. Surprising because at first I thought it didn’t make any sense; to be honest, I thought it was silly. But when it started, even before the film presentation was screened, when we visited the old people at home to invite them and get their consent, my view changed entirely. On one of these visits I went with Lisa and two other social workers, and I saw how the old people felt important at being invited to the event. On the day of the presentation it was very gratifying to see them all. They were excited, they enjoyed themselves and they re-lived moments from their past life intensely.”

The results were then analysed by Lisa and Julia and have informed the methodology of a future larger project. Completion of this pilot project was marked by a day event on 11 July 2015 at the Museum of Liverpool, where the first of the presentations was shown as part of the Museum’s programme of free events for the over 65s.

Outcomes

Lisa and Julia are now developing a toolkit, to be used at first in BUPA nursing homes in Merseyside, which will help care workers and, more specifically, activities coordinators, make more effective use of audio-visual material to stimulate interaction between residents and memories, and promote a sense of wellbeing.

Funding and collaborations

The pilot project was funded by a competitive Knowledge Exchange voucher awarded by the University of Liverpool. Lisa is currently exploring how to take this project further and extend it to groups of older people living with dementia in Liverpool, Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon, Portugal. This new project will involve collaboration with Professor Richard Phillips, a cultural geographer at the University of Sheffield, developing his work on how the stimulation of curiosity can help improve memory, including among people with dementia.

Carmen Miranda sitting next to Alice Faye

Carmen Miranda's fashion: Turbans, platform shoes and a lot of controversy

Read Lisa's article in The Guardian, paying tribute to the actress 60 years on.