Scent and memory: using perfumery to aid dementia patients

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This week I met with the incredible Federica D'Andrea, who is studying for her PhD at the University of West London in the College of Nursing, Midwifery and Healthcare. We were meeting to discuss ways in which we could translate images into scents so that they can be understood better by those with dementia or early stages of anosmia (scent loss).

Federica’s work looks at the ways in which culture can affect memory and the types of smells a particular demographic enjoys. She is primarily a clinical psychologist, and designs workshops for those with dementia and healthy older people in order to compare the results. Her work is inspired by a similar project by perfume house Givaudan, which developed 62 fragrances most commonly liked by senior citizens in Singapore and ways she could aid memory.

Top tips for using scent with dementia patients:

  • Strike a good balance between ‘vague’ and ‘obvious’. One sparks curiosity and the other provides comfort among the familiar.

  • Combine the scent with other visual stimuli and physical objects which can be touched and experienced.

Many thanks to Federica, and I am excited to take her ideas on board with the Demistify project – where I translate artworks from the Charing Cross Hospital Collection into Perfumes.

Sophia Luu