Have You Seen our 1950s Room Scene Reminiscence Wallpaper?
by Gillian Hesketh
At Happy Days, we appreciate there’s nothing better than fresh air for feeling good but when residents, people living with dementia or patients, really can’t get outside – we like to create everyday environments indoors to share and enjoy. Providing an interesting or themed community space can bring carers, visitors and residents or patients together, encouraging meaningful conversation, interaction and activity for social well-being.
Growing up being part of a large predominantly male family in the the building industry means that building projects and alterations don’t discourage me. But to be honest, for the care home and hospital environment, the quicker and simpler the process, the better. Making huge room changes in care service environments is unsettling not only for the residents or patients, but puts extra pressure on the carers, administration and managers.
Visiting residential and care services as often as I do, I get to see the very best living environments and I also see some areas which could be improved. When I talk about the best, I’m not referring to brand new buildings [in fairness, they can boast fabulous finishes, colour schemes and furnishings], I’m talking about care services which provide engaging backdrops or spaces for residents or patients to enjoy. We’ve noticed a real sense of community developing in homes where we’ve worked with managers to provide or install themed spaces: Garden Room – Market Square – Seaside Corridor – French Cafe and our most recent project, a fully operational Olde Fashioned Sweet Shop with seating area and curiosities.
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a window dresser. I’m guessing the title now would be something like Visual Merchandiser. And I suppose that’s just what I’m doing now, creating visual and interactive surroundings for residential and dementia care homes, hospitals and community spaces. At Happy Days, we like to make a difference – and that’s why we ensure there are plenty of conversation prompts and nostalgic artefacts to help carers, care coordinators and relatives reminisce and engage in everyday living with the people they love and care for – sometimes it’s just the little things that can engage a person.
On my travels, I’ve seen plenty of 1950s events and heard many requests for fifties related materials. Since the conception of Happy Days Dementia Workshop, I’ve always wanted to create a 1950s room, full of original furniture and everyday items for people to recognise and prompt stories to share. A room which could be replicated in residential homes and services, even libraries. In my innocence, I considered that would be easily achieved. In reality: original seating would need recovering at the very least. Lamps or radios would require rewiring. Vintage 1950s games were too worn, faded or had the rules or counters missing. Sourcing, renovating and building the displays would be labour intensive …
A light bulb moment sparked the answer to the manager requests. I could build one 1950s room scene and photograph it. But who would want a framed picture of a 1950s living room? My next thought of turning the 1950s room scene into wallpaper interrupted every day and waking night. This would eliminate costly installations – and people would be able to recognise the everyday items without taking up a whole room. But how would I go about photographing the scene armed only with a mobile phone? I’d need space too; furniture, artefacts and ornaments. Over the following year, I collated the materials, searched for a photographer who would understood the project and found a location almost on my doorstep – at my husband’s car showroom. We moved the cars and wallpapered the backing boards, fixed them into place and set out the 1950s room scene. So far, so good. Or maybe not; the ceramic floor tiles appeared detrimental to the theme. The whole set had to be removed whilst the floor was carpeted.
Photographers, like artists have different styles, capabilities, cameras and price lists. I had decided to have the room scene made into wallpaper and had to find the right person with the correct equipment and as it turned out, plenty of patience. Our first shoot went well, but lasted a full day, twice as long as expected. Moving a 1950’s ration book five millimetres to the left and back again or turning the Snakes and Ladders fifteen degrees in a northerly direction or knitting needles twenty degrees south was my first introduction to behind the scenes photography. We both finally agreed, the room looked just great on the camera screen. The photographer promised me the images would expand large enough to be made into wallpaper. I was ready at last to source a specialist printing company. And then I learned, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When we looked at a close up of the images, the wallboard had tilted over and the mirror had provided a view of the cars for sale in the showroom. The whole process had to be repeated. We had to paper the showroom walls and remove the mirror. The following week, we returned to the set, determined to perfect the scene. Again the process developed into a long day which was to be repeated twice more before we found the ideal image and proportions to print – a costly affair and a project I had no idea at the time that it would become so beneficial to care service providers and especially people living with dementia and the people around them.
Thankfully, the printing was a much quicker process. I had it printed on a wide pop-up banner and took it with the 1950s room scene roll of wallpaper to the biggest annual care show at Birmingham’s NEC. I showed it off to anyone who would look or listen to it’s uses and unique qualities. People seemed pretty amazed at the concept, impressed with the quality and delegates were constantly recognising and pointing out objects on the printed scene. I felt safe at last.
I am very proud to say the first wallpaper was acquired by ward manager Linda Broadbent, NHS Clifton Hospital, Lytham, followed by Fran Hall, organising day rooms in wards 25 and 26 at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. The six strips of wipe-clean wallpaper were pasted onto the walls in the three locations in the same week and I waited impatiently to hear the outcome. You may have seen Linda or Fran’s glorifying tweets ‘Wonderful’, ‘Marvellous’ and more – Music to my eyes! ’It went on like a dream’, Ben the decorator said – Music to my ears. But the main thing is – the items on the wallpaper prompt carers, families and friends – the carers, families and friends point out items to
patients and residents. A sense of community forms where everyone, especially people living with dementia, can become engaged in more meaningful conversations. Being engaged can help to maintain social well-being.
So it’s a yes from Birmingham, Linda, Fran and myself. If you’d like more information on the 1950s room scene wallpaper or any products, pop over to our shop: www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk
And Yes, we’ve been asked already … We’ll be working on a 1960’s Room Scene Wallpaper, then maybe a 1970s … I’m just preparing my husband for another car showroom take-over.
By Gillian Hesketh MA
See 1950s Wallpaper – shop here – www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk
Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design