Cobb+Co Museum's original Reminiscence program learning officer Janelle Insley with two of the first volunteers, Josette Stansbie and Helen Moffatt.
Cobb+Co Museum's original Reminiscence program learning officer Janelle Insley with two of the first volunteers, Josette Stansbie and Helen Moffatt.

Ten great years of looking back on days gone by

AGED care residents in the Toowoomba district have been enjoying reminiscing for 10 years thanks to a special program established by Cobb+Co Museum.

Learning officer Tony Coonan said 5775 residents had taken part over 237 sessions across 10 aged care facilities over the past 10 years.

That's a pretty impressive set of numbers, but they could do more with the help of extra volunteers, with homes on a waiting list to take part.

Volunteers work with Queensland Museum kits designed around themes such as Home and Heart, School Days, Animals, Farm Life and Toys and Hobbies, with historical objects they can touch and hold used to encourage residents to share their life experiences and interact.

Retired primary school teacher Josette Stansbie has volunteered with the Reminiscence Program from the start and took part in the first aged care visit.

"It's a wonderful program and it just keeps getting better," she said.

At the end of a recent visit, one of the residents, urged on by a lady of 100, got everyone's attention to thank the volunteers.

"She said, 'We find the program does stimulate us and makes us reminisce about our early lives', and I had tears in my eyes because that's exactly the two things we hope to achieve," Josette said, her voice breaking even as she recalled it.

"You do hear some very happy and some very sad stories - particularly those who don't have family or might have family who live far away and don't get to see them often.

"It's a real mixture - we laugh with them and we shed a tear with them."

For that reason, she said the requirements for being a Reminiscence Program volunteer were not teaching experience or historical knowledge but empathy and an ability to engage with people.

As well as the satisfaction of making connections with residents, Josette said friendships were formed between volunteers.

About six volunteers visit each of the seven homes currently involved in the program once a month from February to November.

Training is provided. To learn more, contact Tony on 0407 124 302.


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