Nestle's 'Vintage Packs' Aim To Help People With Dementia

Looking back on the earliest days of our lives sometimes seems like it requires a kind of mental kaleidoscope to penetrate the distance between here and there.

Viewed down that long tunnel of hindsight, the fantastic collection of memories swirling in the distance recalls a time when we lived our days by the thrill of discovery, instead of the ticks of a clock, we believed in magic – or wanted to believe – and growing up was something other people did.

Part of the power of nostalgia is the way it tugs at us and brings us all the way back to a time we thought we’d lost. Food and beverage company Nestle, in fact, is banking on that emotion to help people with memory loss and dementia.

Nestle UK & Ireland has rolled out a so-called “reminiscence pack”--a mix of vintage wrappers and packaging from its archives that carries a high-minded purpose. After an influx of requests from care groups, the company dug into its files to find examples of retro artwork and design that burst with color and character, with the resulting collection intended to trigger in people with dementia or memory problems recollections of happier times and younger days.

There are posters here, as well as photographs, labels for chocolate boxes and tins and more, all presented as a way for caregivers and family members to potentially “recreate a slice of the past,” according to Nestle. Dr. Alison Cook, director of external affairs for the Alzheimer’s Society in the U.K., which consulted with Nestle on producing the reminiscence pack, puts it this way: “Even something as simple as an old sweet wrapper can bring back vivid memories from a happy time.”

“This activity helps carers and loved ones to engage with people with dementia in a positive way, and has the potential to improve the quality of life for the 800,000 living with dementia in the U.K.,” Cook said.

According to her group, in less than 10 years one million people in the U.K. will be living with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and it’s currently using the Nestle reminiscence pack in two support groups that run activities for people with dementia and their caregivers.

The images come from a special facility at Nestle’s factory in York, England. That’s where things like film, products and packaging are preserved, the company says, in climate- and humidity-controlled conditions. The York factory today cranks out more than 6 million Kit Kat bars a day, as well as products for other brands like Milky Bar and Yorkie.

Nestle says the vintage packaging, labels and art were usable thanks to the work of generations of archivists as well as the generosity of employees and the public. The pack includes things like old wrappers for a 1950s Aero chocolate bar which can be put onto modern products, instantly transforming them into something a person suffering with dementia might be able to latch on to and connect to an otherwise forgotten past.

Instructions included with the wrappers read: “Cut out these old labels and wrap them onto a similar sized modern chocolate bar to create an old-fashioned one.”

Also in the reminiscence pack are things like a pink label for Nesquik Raspberry Milk Shake flavoring. There’s also a poster of two children, a boy and girl who look like they stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting, which reads “Rowntree’s cocoa builds bone and muscle.”

“We hope it brings as much joy to use as it was to create,” Nestle writes in an introduction to the package.

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