Case study-Mementos from Boots the Chemist

Case study-Mementos from Boots the Chemist

Themed multisensory boxes were prepared using items from Boots the Chemist’s extensive archive. These aimed to stimulate meaningful conversation between people with dementia and their carers. The boxes included items including fragrances, photos, pill boxes, medicine jars, and ointments.

Context/location/setting: The boxes were used in a residential care home specialising in dementia care (in Nottingham). The activity took place over 6 consecutive 2 hour weekly sessions (in 2014).

Arts activity: An artist facilitator, trained in working with people with dementia, used the materials focussing one theme (corresponding to a multi-sensory box) per week: Daily Routine; Parenthood; Illness; Childhood; On the Town; and Christmas.

During the sessions, items were handled by participants and passed around the group, with the facilitator asking questions about the contents and encouraging conversation. At least one olfactory item was included in each box to explore this sense in particular.

Funding:  Unfunded. The Boots company are committed to making the archive available for public benefit. Boots archivists provided their input and the materials in kind. The digitisation of the archive is being funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Details of the project participants

 The participants were 13 people with dementia (5 men, 8 women), 3 care home staff (female), 2 archivists (female) and an artist facilitator (male). Residents were nominated to take part by care home staff. Residents who participated were aged 60 or over, with mild to moderate dementia, and English-speaking.  The main exclusion criterion was if a resident was incapable of participating in group activities, e.g. being too ill or restless.

Project management

Project supervisors: Tom Dening and Charlotte Beer , University of Nottingham (quality assurance leads)
Sarah Griffiths , lead researcher and medical student
Sophie Clapp, Boots the Chemist archivist
The project was approved by University of Nottingham University Medical School Research Ethics Committee before the start of the study (ref: G10072014). Informed consent was obtained from those participants with capacity to give consent. In the absence of capacity, a personal or professional consultee was approached.

Evaluation methods and findings

An exploratory study evaluated the activity, using a qualitative approach. Semi structured interviews were used to gather information about the impact of the activity.

The 3 main themes reported were: Engagement (subthemes: Inclusiveness; Emotional involvement; Factors that supported engagement), What’s in the box (subthemes: Contents stimulate memories; Mystery, variety and age of items; Value of olfactory stimuli), and A conversation starter (subtheme: Opportunity for self-expression).

Outcomes:  A further study plans to examine items from the archive in more detail, to determine which are likely to have most therapeutic value. An artistic outcome is also planned, so the research will also focus upon items with aesthetic potential.


Griffiths, S., Beer, C., Dening, T. and Tischler, V. (in press) Mementos from Boots multisensory boxes- qualitative evaluation of an intervention for people with dementia: innovative practice Dementia. The international journal of social research and practice.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England