‘Rekindling couplehood’ using a multisensory suitcase of memories: A pilot study of people living with moderate dementia and their partners

Jane Mullins, Andrea Tales, Charles Musselwhite, Nick Rich

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Creating individualised activities in partnership with people who have moderate dementia and their partners at home has rarely been achieved, as such interventions are usually pre-planned by researchers or professionals. The academic gap is in the activity design being led by the person who has dementia and their partner and how to engage them in a meaningful manner which rekindles positive joint memories and improves the quality of their current relationship. This article explores the meaning and significance of recalling shared holiday memories for people living with moderate dementia and their partners, using multisensory reminiscence. A sensory ethnography research methodology was employed which enhanced co-design of the activity over five home visits. The research culminated in the creation of a digital story, sharing of food and drink, and re-enactment through exploration of their holiday memorabilia: forming their suitcase of memories (SOM). The study extends the current academic debate of co-produced interventions and identifies the critical themes of ‘holidays as life’, ‘freedom’, ‘view seen, viewpoint heard’ and ‘strengthened self-identity with younger self’ which emerged from the research. Such areas of sensory reminiscence have supported positive recollections, discourse and, when combined, resulted in a beneficial impact on the partner's shared relationship. A significant research outcome was the transition from a negative life view dominated by dementia to rekindling their relationship positively as a result of the SOM intervention and sensory methodology. Future research to continue the work with new couples to see if similar results are achieved with more case studies is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2875-2893
Number of pages19
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number12
Early online date27 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2023


  • dementia
  • couplehood
  • reminiscence
  • tourism
  • Sensory
  • memories
  • sensory ethnography
  • Reminiscence
  • Couplehood
  • Sensory ethnography
  • Tourism
  • Memories
  • Dementia
  • sensory


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