Find out what unique idea is bringing joy to Sunderland care home residents

(L-R) Mary Richardson, 83, Ethel Elliot, 95, Ellen Haley, 85,and Joan Dobson, 85, with the collages.
(L-R) Mary Richardson, 83, Ethel Elliot, 95, Ellen Haley, 85,and Joan Dobson, 85, with the collages.

A simple piece of recycling is starting conversations at a Sunderland care home.

Residents at Glenholme House Care Home, in Park Avenue, have been making collages using old picture frames from charity shops to tell the story of their lives.

Ellen Haley, 85,and Joan Dobson, 85, with the collages.

Ellen Haley, 85,and Joan Dobson, 85, with the collages.

The unique idea sees staff and residents work together to make the ‘This is my life’ collages containing photographs and captions of who the people are in the pictures, where they were taken, places they have visited, hobbies they love and funny memories.

The aim is that the collages can then be used by family members, visitors and health care professionals to instantly connect with the person and reminisce.

Anth Topping, activity co-ordinator at the home, collated and copied old photos and got residents and their families to make the collages together.

Whilst making the collages, residents were able to share memories and anecdotes from their past, such as dancing at the Rink, emigrating to Australia back in the 1960s and making their own wedding dress and bridesmaids’ dresses.

Mary Richardson, 83,  and Ethel Elliot, 95, with the collages.

Mary Richardson, 83, and Ethel Elliot, 95, with the collages.

Mt Topping said the project has been a big hit with residents and invaluable in helping those with dementia or mild cognitive difficulties.

He said: “The idea of these collages is to use people’s past to help their present and their future. 
“The more we know about our residents, the better the relationships resulting in better care.

“We embrace technology and use iPads and Spotify playlists for all of our residents, but sometimes a simple conversation sat around a table with old photo albums, newspaper cuttings, scissors and sellotape can create a gift that keeps on giving.

“Having all of this information in a familiar setting of an enormous picture frame on the wall not only tells others about the person but also triggers, reminds and reinforces who they are.”

The home now aims to work closely with families to create one of these homemade works of art for every resident at Glenholme House and then hopes to see the initiative rolled out across other Wellburn homes in Washington and Newcastle.