Guest Blog: Dementia Friendly Heritage Interpretation

We've invited Gillian Fraser, who has been working on dementia-friendly activity packs to bring the Battle of Bannockburn Experience into care homes, to write a blog about her innovative project.

As part of the final year of my heritage and tourism degree at the University of Stirling, I was tasked with creating a heritage output. As a mature student, I wanted to combine my experience and skills from supporting people with dementia, with my new learning from university. This was the basis for creating the Dementia Friendly Heritage Interpretation for the Battle of Bannockburn. Also, as a student, I worked part-time as a battle guide for the Battle of Bannockburn Experience which meant I could combine what I learned as a guide, as a dementia ambassador, and as a student into this heritage output. The dementia-friendly activity pack was designed to be delivered in care homes without the need for a historian or heritage professional present as I was aware that resources for care homes and indeed the heritage sector are limited.

The activity pack was delivered to the residents at Carrondale Care Home with the help of Linda and Gordon from the activities team. The activity flows through three subject areas relevant to the battle: the battle itself, the soldiers, and a topical section which encourages participants to share their thoughts on topics such as the relevance of the battle, and how we manage the heritage of the battle today. During the activity sessions, it was clear to see that the participants were not only interested in listening to me discuss the battle, the soldier types, and the weapons and armour that the soldiers had used, but they were also willing to share their views about the event. In one session a lively discussion about how battlefields should be managed took place.


The pack explains the location of the armies and the events of the battle; the residents were excited to learn that their home is close to where the English Army likely camped before marching to Bannockburn. The residents learned about the different types of soldiers and the weapons they would have used. The Bannockburn Pack’s images of soldiers, armour, and weapons enabled participants with communication difficulties to answer questions about who wore or used what. This was brought to life with samples of chain mail and padded jackets that the residents could hold, most were surprised at the weight of the chain mail and felt sympathy for the soldiers wearing it which emphasised the human element of the activity.

It was exciting to see the room full of people engaging with their heritage, handling the chain mail, and learning about how much our past plays a part in our present. During the activity, a participant begun an impromptu sing along of ‘Flower of Scotland’ which everyone joined in, and I was humbled to see that the activity I created had made a difference to those peoples’ day. The Bannockburn Pack was kept at Carrondale Care Home for a time for the activity team to use with the residents again.  


Although the pack is designed specifically to be dementia friendly, it is also appropriate for individuals with a range of conditions and age-related illnesses, or with none at all. At Carrondale Care Home I delivered the pack three times to diverse groups and each time the flow of the pack changed. In one session we discussed the context of the battle but then run out of time to use the topical section. In another session, the context wasn’t discussed at all and we spent most of the time learning about the soldiers and their weapons and armour. It was essential that while delivering the activity I considered the abilities of the group and responded to their needs. This is where my experience as a dementia ambassador made the biggest difference to the success of the Pack and its flexibility.

In late 2023, Stirling City Heritage Trust invited me to take part in delivering the Stirling Reminiscence Pack to residents of William Simpsons Care Home. The SCHT pack influenced the design of the text and the delivery of the Bannockburn Pack, and it was wonderful to see individuals engaged in the activity, further confirming the need for more care home and heritage collaboration.

During the next few months, I will be travelling around Forth Valley with the Bannockburn Pack to deliver it to other care homes and the Town Break dementia support group.

The pack was created with the encouragement and permission from the National Trust for Scotland.


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