Magazines looking back on Aberdeen’s past to help dementia patients

From left, senior charge nurse Sandie Thomson, staff nurse Claire McKay and healthcare support worker Lily McLelland with copies of the Evening Express Through The Decades magazine.

A series of magazines exploring the rich history of Aberdeen is set to benefit dementia patients.

The Strathbeg ward at Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen has been handed the Evening Express Aberdeen Through the Decades magazine collection as an aid to be used by patients and staff in the ward.

The four-part series looks at a decade for each magazine, from 1940 to 1970, with fascinating photos giving an insight into each era.

Described as “the past brought to life in stories and pictures”, each souvenir magazine focuses on what Aberdeen was like in that specific decade, and has more than 80 pages of content, including features on city landmarks such as the Bon Accord Baths and the Beach Ballroom.

People queuing for bananas on Union Street in 1946.

Sandie Thomson, senior charge nurse at Strathbeg ward – a specialised stress and distress unit, said: “Primarily all our patients have dementia. When they get admitted to ourselves it’s usually when they have more severe symptoms that they find difficult to assess in other wards, so they come to ourselves.

“A lot of our patients’ capabilities are quite limited when they come to this stage, so a lot of them do respond really well to pictures, colours and different stimulations.

“It’s quite good for a therapeutic one-to-one with staff and getting to know the patient better, which makes it more of a holistic care approach.”

The magazines will be kept in the activities area where patients will be able to have a look through the range of images from previous decades.

Staff members of the ward will also have the chance to use the books in one-to-one sessions with patients, which could help them to jog their memory with pictures of familiar places or people from their childhood.

Senior charge nurse Sandie Thomson with the magazines.

Claire McKay, staff nurse at the Strathbeg ward, said: “I think it’s good, having magazines of the local area.

“It’s places our patients recognise, it’s not just what they’ve seen on TV. It’s things that they grew up with, and can stimulate their memories.”

The magazines have been handed over to the ward, and will be laminated so they can be used again and again by patients, hopefully for years to come.

Sandie said: “Once they’re laminated and we get them on the ward we’ll have them in our activity area so families and our activities nurse and staff nurses, and healthcare support workers can sit with patients during one- to-ones, and can also help with a lot of stress and distress.

“As soon as patients can see something familiar, it helps with de-escalation.”

The nurses on the ward are optimistic about the new addition, and hope to use them to be able to better connect with the residents.

Claire said: “I think it’s good to have the magazines because we’re younger, we don’t know what a lot of these places are, so we can go a lot further and look it up if it is something that someone recognises, and with that information we can look into that further for that patient.

“So it’s helpful for us too.”

Rosemount Square in 1949.

As well as a range of photos, the magazine also includes the big stories making the headlines from the decade, with the 1940s including wartime rationing, the Blitz in Aberdeen and the Dons winning the Scottish Cup.

Dons skipper Frank Dunlop being held aloft with the Scottish Cup in 1947.

The 1950s issue looks at fashions of the time, how Aberdonians celebrated the Queen’s Coronation and the Dons heroes of the time.

Taking on some national issues from a local angle is the 1960s issue, which looks at Aberdeen being famed for its counterculture and the civil rights movement, the Space Race, the assassination of JFK and Beatlemania.

The final collection, which is based on the 1970s, focuses on the decade that saw oil discovered in the North Sea, the rise of punk rock music, which changed the music scene forever, and major political changes, both in the Granite City and throughout the country.

Evening Express Through the Decades magazines are still available to purchase, and can be bought online from the DC Thomson shop.

To buy your own copy, visit