Movie and TV Shows that Spark Memory Recall

October 14, 2020

Although people living with dementia have memory and attention deficits, they often respond well to experiences that evoke happy long-term memories, like listening to old show tunes or looking through childhood photo albums. Watching a classic movie or television show is an excellent way to transport a senior back to the past to help them connect to their life experiences and spark nostalgia.

As a caregiver, settling down to watch a movie or television show with your loved one offers a moment of relaxation and a break from everyday stressors. Plus, it’s also a fantastic way to include your loved one in family bonding time and engage them in an activity that is pleasant and soothing.

Before picking some possible options, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Keep it Short

Look for movies under 2 hours, if possible, or plan on only watching a certain amount at a time.

Keep it Happy

Seniors with dementia can have issues distinguishing fantasy from reality. Stick to happy themes and avoid selections that involve violence, prolonged sadness, serious illness, frightening imagery, or death.

Keep it Simple

Look for movies with clear plotlines and avoid those with confusing flashbacks or time travel.

Our top recommendations include:


Casablanca (1942)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Guys and Dolls (1955)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

The Sound of Music (1965)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Television Shows

I Love Lucy (1951)

The Honeymooners (1955)

Leave it to Beaver (1957)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)

The Golden Girls (1985)

Dancing with the Stars (2005)

Grace and Frankie (2015)

These days, many older shows are available to stream on Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus. For those who prefer standard cable, Turner Classic Movies and TVLand both air classic movies and television shows that appeal to an older audience.

If you are caring for a loved one living with dementia, set aside a couple of times during the week to watch one of their favorite movies or shows. Afterward, you may be surprised by how positively they react to the experience and the memories they may recalls. Plus, sharing the experience with them will likely inspire dialogue and provide you with new conversation topics.

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