The Art and Science of Reminiscing; Theory, Research, Methods, and Applications Edited by Barbara K. Haight and Jeffrey D. Webster, 1 995, Washington, D.C.: Taylor and Francis, 323 pages
This book explores in detail the state of reminiscence and related concepts. The book is divided into four parts: theory, research, methods, and applications. The Foreword: The Life Review, by Dr. Robert Butler, describes the birth and historical perspective of reminiscence and life review.
Part One discusses several ways reminiscence has been presented as a theoretical framework, model, and concept based on an extensive literature review. Part Two summarizes the data and results from several interesting research studies on reminiscence. In one study on centenarians, the authors found no differences in frequency of reminiscence in 100-, 80-, and 60-yearolds,, thus questioning the earlier belief that reminiscence is a universal process that primarily occurs in the very old. Other studies proposed that reminiscence occurs at all ages, including the young, and that people who participate in reminiscence groups outlive control subjects. Two other studies noted that women reported more events and had more vivid memories of relationships than men.
Part Three described methods of applying reminiscence in practice, including clinical settings, and in research. Examples of methods discussed were group work, use of props and themes, guided autobiography, life review, telling one's story, and interviews. Use of interviews by volunteers with older patients facing elective surgery produced a decrease in anxiety compared with a control group.
Part Four discussed the use of reminiscence as a therapeutic intervention for older adults with depression and dementia as well as with those who are withdrawn, have lost a loved one, and those facing death. The use of combined oral and writing reminiscence groups also was included. One interesting study reported the positive effects of group reminiscence on facility staff. Staff members became more knowledgeable about the residents' histories, thus increasing their enthusiasm, attitudes, job satisfaction, and possibly resulting in improved quality of life for the residents. The American Association of Retired Persons has available materials for training volunteers, health care providers, and family members to learn how to use reminiscence in a variety of settings.
One of the major strengths of this book is also a possible weakness for general use. Parts of the book are written for the researcher, educator, and/or gerontologicaltrained health care provider rather than the general reader who may want to implement a reminiscence program.
There is still much clarification that needs to be done related to reminiscence and related concepts. The greatest problem is the need to clarify the terms/ purposes, processes, and outcomes (for example, reminiscence and life review) and to study the differences related to age, gender, cultural background, family structure, and religious beliefs. The book is certainly worth reading, and studying, because it gives one an incentive to pursue some of the unanswered questions proposed.