Dr Polly Russell
Residents living in Care UK homes have been able to enjoy virtual sessions with a very special food expert
Residents in homes were able to join a live event with food historian, Dr Polly Russell, from the BBC programme Back in Time for… for a live interactive food tasting session designed to transport residents back to their younger years.
Partnering with Care UK for the nationwide Food for Thought initiative, which sees care homes across the country celebrate their favourite foods throughout the decades, Dr Polly worked alongside Care UK chefs to create a unique reminiscence menu. The menu features iconic foods from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and is designed to be used as a sensory tool to encourage reminiscence in older people.
As part of the event, the home’s talented chefs prepared a host of bitesize delights from the menu, including kedgeree, prawn cocktail and a show stopping black forest gateau, for residents to enjoy, complemented by a selection of fine wine. The tasting menu was designed to reflect the narrative of Dr Polly’s talk – for example, when she talked about the 1950s, residents were able to enjoy a little bit of history with a bite size portion of coronation chicken.
They were also encouraged to share their memories with Dr Polly as she talked through the history of each dish. These reminiscences from residents included how to make the perfect cup of tea and how families went on pea-picking holidays.
Dr Polly said: “I was delighted to partner with Care UK to create a reminiscence tasting menu, and I had a fantastic time chatting to residents about some of their favourite foods throughout the ages.
“There really is something incredibly special about the way food can evoke memories and emotions, and it was wonderful to see how everyone’s faces light up when they tried each dish. Just one flavour or smell can prompt a different memory and emotion for each individual, which is why a session like this can be so powerful.
Malaika Charles, Home Manager at Sandfields in Cheltenham, added: “We loved meeting Dr Polly virtually, and taking part in the sensory reminiscence activity. My team, as always, pulled out all the stops to deliver an outstanding experience.’’
“Across Care UK, we believe in the power of activity-based care, and we’re always looking for new and exciting experiences to promote wellbeing. Reminiscence activities can be extremely beneficial for older people, particularly those living with dementia, as long-term memory typically remains stronger than the short-term. Drawing on strong memories helps to boost confidence and provides an opportunity to re-live happy times, which can prompt conversation and evoke the associated emotions.
“Everyone had a great time dining through the decades and it was wonderful to hear residents share their memories during the session. It really was the restaurant experience that residents love.”
Residents in a range of other Care UK homes were able to enjoy a second session pre-recorded by Dr Polly. This was a 20-minute talk about the history of a very popular treat in care homes – afternoon tea. Residents and colleagues enjoyed learning about how the drink was first introduced into this country and how royalty set the trend for it to be accompanied by delicious cakes and dainty sandwiches. Naturally, residents enjoyed the talk alongside a delicious afternoon tea prepared by chefs at their homes.
The pre-recorded session was added to the project to give those homes that might have recently had someone test positive for Covid-19 the flexibility to run the sessions with smaller groups of residents or to delay the event until the home is out of outbreak.
As well as the two sessions, with Dr Polly, teams in all of Care UK’s homes were invited to run food for thought reminiscence events for residents which encourage the sharing of memories about food, meals and ingredients.
As always, residents and team members showed great flair and creativity in running a range of different events including:
∙ At Mill View in East Grinstead, residents recreated sweet treats remembered from their childhood, including making chocolate bars and jellies. Head of Maintenance, Scott Humphrey, built a ‘Mill View Sweet Memories’ confectionary trolley especially for the occasion, which the team filled with nostalgic favourites including ice cream sundaes and traditional pick ‘n’ mix.
∙ Montfort Manors’ talented chef, Anna Sudak, prepared a special afternoon tea, including traditional sandwiches, Victoria sponge and scones for residents. They also took part in a fun quiz about the 1980s, while enjoying popular treats from the time, including black forest gateau.
∙ Snowdrop House, in Ware, hosted three baking challenges as part of their 1950s, 60s and 70s era-themed celebrations. Residents also took part in a reminiscence session about their favourite baking memories, and team members got into the spirit by dressing up in retro fancy dress.
∙ Cambridge care home Field Lodge hosted a 1970s themed tea party, complete with quiche Lorraine, vol au vents and Battenberg cake. Residents spent the morning making cheese and pineapple hedgehogs for the event whilst sharing their favourite foods from the past.
∙ Head Chef at Priors House, Marcin Ignatowitcz, delivered cookery classes to each suite in the home. He demonstrated how to make 50s fondue, 60s banana splits, 70s crepes and 80s pizza.
∙ Lonsdale Mews, in Quorn, went time-travelling through the decades to feature as many different eras of food as possible. They enjoyed an afternoon of remembering the Queen’s Coronation, 1966 World Cup and the Silver Jubilee with quizzes and fun fashion, as well as delicious food.
∙ In Sutton Coldfield, Mercia Grange enjoyed a groovy lunch 60s style, where colleagues dressed in their best throwback fashions and residents enjoyed prawn cocktails.
∙ In Bristol, an award-winning local restaurant streamed a cooking lesson for residents live from their kitchen and residents followed their lead to create treats like a jam roly-poly.
To find out more about Care UK’s partnership with Dr Polly Russell, and for more top tips on how others can use food as a reminiscence tool for older people visit careuk.com/food-for-thought