Global Impact

Something to remember

Treasured Items from the Boots UK archive help rekindle memories for people with dementia.

By Laura Fletcher

A Boots memory box

During World Alzheimer’s Month this September, we’re revisiting a piece from 2018 to showcase some of the work Boots UK is doing to support people living with dementia.


By 2021, there will be more than 1 million people with dementia in the UK, according to Alzheimer’s Society research, and 46 percent of caretakers for people with dementia find it difficult to provide appropriate and stimulating recreational activities for them. That’s why Boots UK has been working with Victoria Tischler, professor and head of Dementia Care at the University of West London, to create multi-sensory memory box experiences and resources for care home residents and people living with dementia.

The boxes contain carefully selected items and products from the Boots archive, which tell the story of a High Street brand that has been part of people’s lives through generations. The Boots archive contains tens of thousands of items, including original formulations and products that many people associate with poignant memories and life milestones. From Devonshire violet bath salts to cod liver oil and carbolic soap, the smell of these items can help unlock memories of the past and spark conversation and discussion for those living with dementia.

“It’s wonderful that we have been able to use items from the Boots archive in this way,” says Boots archivist Sophie Clapp, who has helped to run the memory box sessions at care homes across the country. “When you hand a person with dementia an item that they may remember from childhood, such as an old medicine tin or a floral scent that they probably haven’t smelled in decades, the moment of recognition is very powerful and emotional.”

According to Tischler, it’s the scent aspect of the memory boxes that is most important.

“Smell is very powerful in triggering autobiographical memories, so memories from previous parts of our life,” Tischler explains. “I’m interested in seeing how we can use the Boots archive to recreate or introduce smells that will create really positive stimulation for people living with dementia. The items with the strongest scents tend to attract the most interest in the sessions, partly because identifying them is a challenge and this provokes conversation among the group, which is exactly what we want.”

“Boots is committed to supporting people living with dementia and their caretakers, and we’re delighted to be able to open up our incredible archives as a resource to help understand its therapeutic benefit to those living with dementia,” says Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist for Boots UK. “We have been supporting the Dementia Friends program since its launch in 2013 and now have over 34,000 colleagues who are Dementia Friends. With at least one* Dementia Friend in every one of our stores across the UK, we can help make sure those living with dementia and their families find information, advice, support and understanding when they need it.”

Boots has created resources available via and in store to offer information and advice about dementia as well as tips on creating memory boxes.

*Subject to colleague availability in store

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