MUTTON stew and dumplings were on the menu at the launch of an authentic 1950s-style reminiscence room to help dementia sufferers at a Darlington residential complex.

As well as a filling post-war lunch, served by staff in mid-century fashions, tenants enjoyed a sing-a-long of old favourites with entertainer Jean Ogilvie.

The new resource, at Rosemary Court sheltered housing complex, provides the perfect setting for staff to hold memory sessions with people with dementia.

Evocative period objects available for handling in the room include gas masks, old records and record players, a 1940s iron, retro tea sets and an original wooden-cased television.

The special room also contains reminiscence board games, designed to bring back happy memories of carefree younger days.

Much of the 1940s and 50s paraphernalia has been donated by residents, but staff have also been busy combing local charity and retro shops.

Lynn Carter, service manager for Making Space, the charity that manages the care in Rosemary Court, said: “It is a safe space to transport people living with dementia back to their past and we are looking forward to many happy times spent in this very special new room.”

Rachel Yates, dementia development coordinate for Making Space, explained the benefits of the facility.

“Reminiscence work is very important for the wellbeing of people with dementia,” she said.

"Reminiscing about the past builds on the strengths of a person with dementia as they are more likely to retain long-term memories.

"Involving family and staff members in reminiscence activities can be a rewarding experience for everyone.

“It also helps us to find out about people’s life history and experiences so we can develop further activities that they will enjoy.”

Rosemary Court contains 42 self-contained flats for individuals over 50.

Fourteen are designed for individuals with mental health needs and the care team provides support 24-hours-a-day.

Making Space took over the care and support of the Rosemary Court tenants in April 2014 and works in partnership with Darlington Borough Council Housing Services to promote independence as well as having a safe environment for individuals living with dementia.

Although the room has been designed with Rosemary Court residents in mind, it will be available to voluntary organisations working with individuals with dementia in Darlington. For further information, contact Lynn Carter on 07583 000899 or Susan Gardiner on 01325 354228.