Memory Cinema – a nationwide initiative for people with dementia

INITIATIVE. Memory Cinema is a pilot project by the Danish Film Institute that offers historical films as part of socialising activities in the caring of people affected by dementia. The project is being rolled out to care homes and cinemas across Denmark.

The Danish Dementia Research Centre at Rigshospitalet, the largest hospital in Denmark, estimates that some 90,000 people in Denmark are suffering from dementia. This number will only grow as our life expectancy increases. As memory fails, the quality of life of those with dementia and their relatives declines dramatically. After all, it is what we remember that largely shapes who we are.

Nevertheless, distant memories may remain intact in people with dementia.

Memory Cinema

Memory Cinema (page in Danish) is intended for those with dementia and their relatives and caregivers. The emphasis is to use historical films from the archives to reawaken memories, serving as the basis for dialogue.

Memory Cinema consists of a series of film packages featuring documentaries and clips, primarily from the 1950s and 1960s. The films come with dialogue material. Over the next three years, more film packages will be released. The films will be shown in care homes and cinemas. In addition, an app will be developed. 

Part of 'Denmark on Film'

Memory Cinema is part of the Danish Film Institute's historical streaming site, Denmark on Film. Explore the site's English-language theme, Welcome to Denmark.

Since 2020, the Danish Film Institute has been working with researchers, caregivers, relatives, and people with dementia in an attempt to reawaken those memories by way of historical films.

The Memory Cinema concept has proved effective at evoking memories, as moving images of familiar places, for instance, as well as familiar music, can jog the memory. In this way, films can perpetuate the past for those whose memory is failing and serve as the basis for conversation between them and their relatives.

The Danish Film Institute has just received DKK 2.45 million (EUR 329,000) from the Danish fund Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond for the continued development of Memory Cinema. This grant means that the project can be rolled out as a national care project in Denmark’s care homes and cinemas, as well as via an app.

Memory Cinema consists of short films and clips, including this 1950 report from a bicycle parade in Copenhagen (Danish speak).

Jakob Buhl Vestergaard, Deputy Managing Director of the Danish Film Institute, says:

"At the Danish Film Institute, we’re incredibly pleased that we now have the opportunity to secure the nationwide expansion of Memory Cinema, which has proved to have huge potential in the work with those suffering with dementia. It’s a pleasure to be able to launch such a project that demonstrates so well what can be achieved when the overall ambition to digitalise film heritage goes hand in hand with efforts to have these films used in contexts where they can create joy and be of value – in this case in a completely new way."

Over the past six years, the Danish Film Institute has digitalised a considerable part of Danish film heritage. More than 2,000 historical documentaries from the archive have been made available online at the 'Denmark on film' streaming site. This work is fundamental to the realisation of a project such as Memory Cinema.

Memory Cinema – in care homes and cinemas and at home

Memory Cinema and its film packages and dialogue material can already be accessed online. As the project continues to be rolled out, this will be supplemented with an app. Over the next few years, the Danish Film Institute will produce more film packages. These will include films related to local areas. In addition, the Danish Film Institute will work with care homes and cinemas across Denmark to provide special screenings for people with dementia and their relatives and caregivers.

Memory Cinema has been developed and trialled in co-operation with Via University College, the Pedershave care home north of Copenhagen, the Municipality of Rudersdal, and the Reprise Cinema. 

Memory Cinema previously received a grant of DKK 500,000 (EUR 67,000) from the Aage og Johannes Louis-Hansens Fund.

My husband’s short-term memory has completely gone, so being able to sit and talk about the images can reawaken older memories.

- Lis Lorentzen, relative, about a Memory Cinema event

Memory Cinema – reactions

Eva Britt Larsen Blytmann, activity worker at the Pedershave care home
"Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges for people with dementia. In my work, I focus a lot on helping our staff start and follow up on conversations, because this is something that can be difficult. In this respect, Memory Cinema is something of a gift. We find that film can act as a conversation starter that gives us insight and bring us closer to those we work with."

Maiken Ellergaard Madsen, project manager for Memory Cinema at Reprise Cinema
"Many relatives tell us that they’ve not been to the cinema in years because the plot of a regular film is too difficult for someone with dementia to follow, but these films have been tailored exactly to this user group."

Lis Lorentzen, relative, talking about a Memory Cinema event at Reprise Cinema
"My husband’s short-term memory has completely gone, so being able to sit and talk about the images can reawaken older memories. I really appreciate that! Please do more of this – it’s a great initiative."

Kenn Pedersen, who suffers from dementia, talking about a Memory Cinema event at Reprise Cinema
"It’s been a long time since I last went to the cinema. As a boy, I often went to the cinema in Roskilde, which had three cinemas. I remember that my friends and I often went to the four o’clock screening in Roskilde on Sundays. That was nice."

Anders Møller Jensen, PhD student at VIA University College and expert on ageing and dementia
"The films from the Danish Film Institute’s archives are very well-suited to stimulating memories in people with dementia. The concept behind reminiscence work is that we use objects from the past to evoke memories in people with dementia in the present. If you have dementia, you may be unable to remember what happened five minutes ago, but memories from fifty years ago may remain intact – and can be activated by things like films from the time."

Ane Eckermann, project and development manager at the Danish Alzheimer’s Association
"Memory Cinema consists of activities that combine historical films, togetherness, experiences, stimuli, and dialogue. The project is based on well-proven reminiscence and cognitive stimulus principles. At the Danish Alzheimer’s Association, we greatly appreciate new initiatives, where cultural products are used for more than just entertainment. We can see great potential in Memory Cinema, whereby film media is used to strengthen cognitive abilities as well as improve the quality of life of those suffering with dementia and their relatives."


Annemarie Hørsman
Communication Officer
Tel. +45 3374 3474