Treasured Items from the Boots UK Archive Help to Rekindle Memories in People with Dementia

22 May 2018

There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK1 and according to research, 46% of carers find it difficult to provide appropriate and stimulating recreational activities for people with dementia2 which is why Boots UK has been working with Professor Victoria Tischler, Head of Dementia Care at the University of West London, to create multi-sensory memory box experiences for care home residents living with dementia.

The boxes contain carefully selected items and products from the Boots archive, which tells the story of a high street brand that has been part of people’s lives through the generations. The Boots archive contains over ten thousand items including original formulations and products, which many people will associate with poignant memories and life milestones. From Devonshire violet bath salts, to cod liver oil and carbolic soap, the smell of these items can help to unlock memories of the past and spark conversation and discussion for those living with dementia.



The film shows residents of Nightingale House Care Home in South West London taking part in a memory box session and focuses on the reactions and memories sparked from products which are a part of the Boots archive. 



Sophie Clapp, Boots archivist, who is helping to run further memory box sessions at care homes across the country during Dementia Action Week (21-27 May 2018) says the reactions of residents to items from the archive have been very moving:

“It’s wonderful that we have been able to use items from the Boots archive in this way. When you hand a person with dementia an item that they may remember from childhood, such as an old medicine tin, or a floral scent that they probably haven’t smelled in decades, the moment of recognition is very powerful and emotional. It has been so uplifting to be part of this project.”

Professor Tischler explains why the scent aspect of the memory boxes is so important:

“Smell is very powerful in triggering autobiographical memories, so memories from previous parts of our life. I’m interested in seeing how we can use the Boots archive to recreate or introduce smells that will create really positive stimulation for people living with dementia.

“The items with the strongest scents tend to attract the most interest in the sessions, partly because identifying them is a challenge and this provokes conversation amongst the group, which is exactly what we want. The importance of smell in stimulating memories is something that I will be exploring further in my continued research.”

Elizabeth Fagan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Boots, comments: “Boots is committed to supporting people living with dementia and their carers, and we’re delighted to be able to open up our incredible archives as a resource to help understand its therapeutic benefit to those living with dementia. 

“We have been supporting the Dementia Friends programme since its launch in 2013 and now have over 23,500 colleagues across Great Britain who are Dementia Friends.  With at least one* Dementia Friend in every one of our stores across Great Britain, we can help make sure those living with dementia and their families find information, advice, support and understanding when they need it.”

Boots has created resources available online and in store to offer information and advice about dementia as well as tips on creating memory boxes - visit  or pick up a Living with Dementia guide in store.



* Subject to colleague availability in store.

1 Alzheimer’s Society, Facts for the Media, Who is Affected?

2 Challenges facing primary carers of people with dementia: Findings from a two-stage prioritization exercise with members of the Alzheimer’s Society Research Volunteer Network, March 2012.