How the Sunderland Echo archives are helping Wearside elderly to overcome loneliness

Retro photos from the Sunderland Echo archives are playing a special role in care homes across Wearside.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 19th March 2020, 6:41 pm
How many of these shops do you remember from 39 years ago?
How many of these shops do you remember from 39 years ago?

Thanks to a link-up with the Sunderland Literacy Aid group, old pictures from the 1970s and 1980s are being used in homes to help people reminisce.

And it is proving so successful that it is about to be extended to more homes.

We have shared a whole series of images from going shopping at Lermans to a view of the High Street baths.

A view of Vaux in September 1983.

There’s a photo of a Jubilee street party in the 1970s, one of Vaux and of the toy department at Josephs.

Cata Constantine, from the Sunderland Literacy Aid team, explained the difference that the project is already making among people in care homes.

“Their exposure to photos with reminiscence undertones, brings about positive feelings gained from sharing pleasant memories. This seems to boost their mood and reduce agitation, as well as minimise challenging behaviours like wandering and anger.

Cata added: “Another benefit is that they get the chance to socialise outside their immediate circle, with our volunteers. This activity stimulates their brain in a different way than if talking to a staff member that they see every day.

The High Street baths in 1975. Was it where you learned to swim?

“The conversations at times may recall cherished memories, such as their childhood, how life in Sunderland was 'better in the old days', their travels and also their jobs.

“In addition, engaging in conversations about the past seems to also provide solace from boredom and symptoms of depression, and having someone new to talk to helps them to preserve family stories.”

Echo photos are being printed onto huge boards so that people with sight problems can also view the images.

Our contributions have also included scenes from Lambton Lion Park, Jacky White’s market, Sunderland shipyards and fishing at Mowbray Park.

SLA volunteers with some of the photos which are making such a difference in Sunderland care homes.

The project is aimed at helping those elders who even though they are not struggling with dementia, they express a feeling of loneliness and isolation. “We are happy to introduce this project to other care homes,” said Cata.

And now the Echo’s assistance may also help in another way.

Cata said: “The Sunderland Echo article will help the organisation with an exposure we can not possibly get from anywhere else. This will inform the wider community of our activities, and hopefully help us gain new volunteers to help us deliver this project to more care homes. It will also direct the community to our website, where people can read about all other activities/projects.”

Sunderland Literacy Aid was founded to help encourage social inclusion, community regeneration and lifelong learning in the ageing communities of Sunderland.

Jacky White's Market as it looked in 1973.

It aims to do that via arts therapy workshops designed to build better mental health, and via educational workshops to help increase the literacy rate.

Cata added: “The long term aim is to create positive social and economic impact, reduce book-waste, help those in need attain an overall better mental health.”

To find out more about the group, visit

Lermans toy shop in 1977. It is another of the photos we shared with Sunderland Literacy Aid.
One of the photos which is being used in the project. It shows Binns in 1980.