Animated series hopes to help dementia sufferers recall the past

New animation project features elderly people narrating own experiences as part of series aimed at helping dementia sufferers recall the past

A new local project aimed at helping dementia sufferers recall the past is being launched this week by a number of activists and creative artists, who have opted for animated movies as the medium of choice in their effort to to engage with the elderly community and provide a platform for them to share their stories.

Ghidli Storja is the result of cooperation between Greenhouse Malta and Reciprocal, and consists of 12 episodes of five minutes each which will be made available on social media platforms. The aim is to stimulate critical thinking and discussions on current topics in the context of realising and understanding what was lost through the narratives of people who have lived through a different time.

It is estimated that there are 16 million people with dementia living in the world right now, and recalling the past is often an affirming exercise for sufferers. Dementia patients respond positively to familiarity, which is why Ghidli Storja sought out interesting stories narrated by the protagonists themselves.

Reciprocal’s Nicholas Grima told MaltaToday that storytelling was a powerful tool for rationalising strings of thought in a coherent manner.

“It engages different areas of the brain and stimulates different responses. Dementia patients have trouble processing traditional information mostly because the context is not clear to them. Narration and visual cues present in a visual medium such as short animation may provide the patient with an easier context for them to rationalise and relate to,” he said. “Dementia patients sometimes struggle with facial recognition. Animated movies transcend that problem.”

The project also holds cultural value, as Maltese society experiences the steady decline of past forms of elocution. This is a natural progression as newer generations impose their new way of speaking. “It is a shame to not maintain an accessible record of the way our older relatives expressed themselves. Ghidli Storja aims to capture this and present it in a fun and interesting way for the general public,” Grima said.

Using the words of the elderly subjects as narration also provides a brand of elocution which is no longer in use.

“This may resonate well with patients, since this is the kind of language they lived with in the past,” he said.

The programme aims to provide a ‘witness report’ by people who lived through these anachronistic experiences first hand, while also offering a concise portrait of an individual who would probably remain obscure to the general public otherwise.

“This serves to provoke a feeling of ‘sonder’ – the profound realisation that everyone around us has a story of their own in which they are the main character,” Grima said.

The project was funded by Komunitajiet Kreattivi and the Malta Arts Council.