We often look to the basics when it comes to dementia. For example, pharmaceuticals, memory facilities, and caregivers. These are all critical pieces to the challenges of managing dementia symptoms. But sometimes it’s necessary to think outside the box. What if we fully immersed dementia patients in an interactive experience aimed at sparking memories from their distant past? In a suburb of San Diego, California, this very idea has become a reality. Reminiscence therapy for dementia patients is a growing modality for managing and improving the symptoms of dementia.

U.S. News tells us about this exciting and promising new way of helping dementia patients. Launched in 2018, Glenner Town Square in Chula Vista, California is using photos, music, memorabilia, and other tools to create a completely immersive environment. The goal of reminiscence therapy is to spark pleasant memories for dementia patients. Ones from their teen and young adult years, when they felt their best.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on finding disease-modifying medications for dementia, none have proven to be very effective so far. This is why thinking outside the box is so crucial. The approach of reminiscence therapy can also reduce behavioral challenges. Boredom is a main contributor to agitation that is often associated with dementia. Dr. Esther Oh, a geriatrician, says we need to occupy them with familiar and happy things from their pasts. In turn, boredom, anxiety, and agitation will ultimately decrease.

It’s still too early to have hard evidence on the effectiveness of immersive reminiscence therapies. But from what researchers can see so far, it is highly promising. It’s completely safe and there are no side-effects. Improvements in quality of life, communication, mood, and cognition have already been witnessed for many. All in all, it does not focus on what the individual can’t remember, but on what they can remember. This positive outlook may make all the difference for those affected by dementia.