Introduction to Reminiscence and Life Review
Since Robert N. Butler coined the term “life review” nearly 60 years ago, researchers and practitioners have documented that specific life story approaches can prevent and or be utilized to successfully treat mental health problems in older adults. They also raise self-esteem, help with the grief process, and can be effectively utilized in helping older adults remain active and less focused on the chronic and acute diseases common in the senior population, which includes: Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, obesity and more.
Our biennial conferences bring together researchers, clinicians, educators, students and older adults themselves to further expand the field of reminiscence and life review. We consider the most important outcome of our conferences to be “planting of seeds” for further work within the field. Since the formation of this group and biennial conferences that began in 1995, the collaboration between participants has in part led to an explosion of work within this field. These include many books, video tapes, masters and doctoral research countless peer reviewed journal articles, and improved programming.
The audience includes physicians, social workers, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dieticians, and gerontologists. A combination of invited speakers share their scholarship for plenary sessions and symposia, as well as a selection of poster sessions in the areas of research and practice selected in response to the conference call for proposals.
The Beginning: 1995 Life Review Conference and Center for Continuing Education
Featured Scholarship: The Art and Science of Reminiscing; Ageing and Reminiscence Processes, Social and Clinical Implications
The Art and Science of Reminiscing: Theory, Research, Methods and Applications. Edited by Barbara Haight and Jeffrey Webster.
Although recognition of reminiscing as a potentially adaptive process can be traced back over 30 years to
the seminal work of Robert Butler as discussed in the Foreword, there has been little effort to consolidate the work and paint a complete picture of reminiscing as an entity. Here, reminiscing is presented as a multi-disciplinary topic, examining the theory of, and research on, reminiscing. The book also discusses the different ways of conducting life-review interviews and explores therapeutic applications.; Contributors to this book, many of whom are pioneers and leading figures in the field, discuss and elaborate their latest thinking and research findings from multiple perspectives. The volume's strength derives from its multi-disciplinary nursing, psychiatry, psychology, gerontology, community advocacy and multinational Australia, Canada, England, Sweden and the United States treatment. James Birren, Irene Burnside, and Phillipe Cappeliez are a few of the eminent scholars authoring this volume.
In the Media: 1995 National R&LR Conference
The Beginning: 1995 National Reminiscence and Life Review Conference
National Reminiscence and Life Review Conference was held in August of 1995 as part of Center for Continuing Education (CCE), in Superior, Wisconsin. At that first conference, the International Society for Reminiscence and Life Review (ISRLR) was founded by John Kunz at the urging of Robert N. Butler, the keynote speaker. John had just met him that morning when he introduced him at the conference. Meeting Dr. Butler influenced both the development of what became the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review and John’s own personal and professional development.
Robert Butler became a strong voice in support of the ISRLR and conferences. He spoke pro bono on many occasions. John visited his office in NYC and looked through all of his files on reminiscence and life review that were kept in a cabinet with pictures of him and many US Presidents and other dignitaries across the top.
In the Media: Reflections 1996
New Name, New Growth: The International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review (IIRLR)
Featured Videos: The Joys and Surprises of Telling Your Life Story, and An Unlikely Friendship
Authored by: Kunz, John A., & Tyrrell, Mary O'Brien
John Kunz and Mary O’Brien Tyrrell produced The Joys and Surprises of Telling Your Life Story video completed in 2003. Supported by a grant from MetLife and donations from Mary’s clients, they planned the content of the video, the expert commentators, and the people to be interviewed. The experts from the growing field of reminiscence and life review included Robert Butler, James and Betty Birren, Barbara Haight, Susan Perlstein, Florence Gray-Soltys, Kitty Axelson-Berry and more as well as both John Kunz and Mary O’Brien Tyrrell. In addition, interviewees included Mary’s personal historian clients who recorded in her home in Saint Paul, MN. The resulting hour-long video is a thoughtful exploration of the power of life story. It is a tool to educate people about the opportunities to record life stories either in writing or video. Cover art by Leo B. Bovey
Authored by: Diane Bloom, Florence Gray Soltys, Stephen Hawthorne, Lou Lipsitz, Ann Atwater, C P Ellis (Claiborne Paul), In-Focus (Firm), Filmakers Library, Inc.
About a surprising friendship between an embittered KKK leader (C.P. Ellis) and an outspoken Black woman activist (Ann Atwater), that developed when they were appointed to co-chair a community committee to resolve problems arising from a court-ordered school desgregation, and that changed race relations and shocked Durham's residents.
Featured Research Scholarship: Critical Advances in Reminiscence Work: From theory to application
Authored by: Jeffrey Webster and Barbara Haight
Reviews literature on reminiscence work and focuses on conceptual issues, developmental/sociocultural contexts, special populations, and clinical applications. Topics addressed include: reminiscence and development in late life, personal identity/social discontinuity, spiritual reminiscence, story-telling, integrating reminiscence and life review techniques with therapy, and reminiscence groups for people with dementia. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)
Citation: Webster, J. D., & Haight, B. K. (Eds.). (2002). Critical advances in reminiscence work: From theory to application. Springer Publishing Company.
2003 Conference: Featuring David Kuhl, M.D., What Dying People Want
The IIRLR biennial conference was held in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada under President Jeffrey Webster.
Keynote Speaker, David Kuhl, M.D., delivered a speech titled "What Dying People Want".
Recognizing Scholarship: Inaugural Awards and 10th Anniversary
Featured Book: The Past in the Present, Using Reminiscence in Health and Social Care (Faith Gibson)
The Past in the Present Using Reminiscence in Health and Social Care
Authored by: Faith Gibson
Promote or revive your clients’ abilities to solve problems, cope more effectively, improve communication and social interactions, and build their self-esteem with the formal and informal reminiscence strategies contained in The Past in the Present. Informed by a life span development perspective, this book offers you richly productive Themes and topics Multisensory triggers that stimulate recall Intergenerational activities Formats for constructing and recording the life story Techniques to unlock therapeutic barriers With these tools, you can help your clients to Tap into their creativity Experience meaningful life review Deepen their relationships with others and value themselves Shed feelings of isolation Become a reminiscence resource for others Internationally acclaimed reminiscence expert Faith Gibson seamlessly combines theory and practical approaches to help you ensure life satisfaction and successful aging in clients at any stage in life and in any setting, whether you are working with them individually, as a couple, or in a small group. Learn how people with dementia can benefit from using reminiscence. In addition, for the first time, this book elucidates how reminiscence can be used as a dynamic tool for staff development, improving the delivery of care by and skills of direct care staff. Practical strategies are enhanced by photocopiable forms and charts that assist in accountability, dozens of case examples from diverse populations and programs in the U.S. and abroad, a 20th century time line, an international resource list, and a comprehensive reminiscence bibliography. The Past in the Present is an essential reminiscence resource for nursing staff and paraprofessionals, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, activity directors, recreation therapists, professionals providing training programs for volunteers and family caregivers, community groups, and school and college programs providing community service and intergenerational outreach. Instructors in gerontology and related disciplines will find this an insightful, essential addition to their curricula.
2005 Conference: Featuring William L. Randall, Reading Our Lives: Reflections On the Poetics of Reminiscence
The IIRLR biennial conference was held in Orlando, Florida under President Florence Gray Soltys.
The keynote speaker was William L. Randall, AB, MDiv, ThM, EdD, Associate Professor in Gerontology, St. Thomas University - Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Reading Our Lives: Reflections On the Poetics of Reminiscence.
2005 marked the founding of the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review Inaugural Awards Reception In celebration of the 10th Anniversary Presentations. Two inaugural awards were given. They are: the Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award and the James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Awards.
The Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Robert Butler
The James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: James Birren
Featured Book: Transformation Reminiscence: Life Story Work (John Kunz and Florence Gray-Soltys)
Authored by: John Kunz and Florence Gray-Soltys
Description: Finally, a book that takes a "big picture" look at the complexities of using life story work with older adults. Using the life story matrix as a framework, the authors and their contributors cover the complexities of reminiscence and life review, techniques and advice for making a personal story public, and the delicate balance of when to focus on content and when the process of telling one's life story can be therapeutic or destructive.
Transformational Reminiscence teaches the reader how to use the full spectrum of life story approaches to enhance quality of life for older adults, ameliorate social and psychological problems, and intervene if they occur. Practical applications, anecdotes, exercises that help clarify the experiential side of the content, and helpful suggestions enhance each chapter and ensure a safe and ethical application of this technique. This book is a must read for anyone who uses a life story approach in his or her work with older adults or is teaching or supervising others in doing so.
Review: [A]s recently as fifty years ago people believed that reminiscing was a sign of senility....Today, along with a greater understanding of the significance of reminiscence we have seen the rising popularity of private memoirs in various forms, from oral histories by universities to audio and videotapes for family archives. John A. Kunz and Florence Gray Soltys have made a major contribution to the field by providing a framework for individuals and groups engaged in this enriching and important work."
--Robert N. Butler, MD
2007 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2007 Conference: Featuring Gene Cohen, Ongoing Psychological Growth with Aging: Autobiography and The Summing Up Phase
The IIRLR biennial conference was held in San Francisco, California under President Brian de Vries.
This conference was dedicated in memory of Florence Gray Soltys, former president of the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review. She was on the planning committee for the first conference in 1995 and was one of the founding board members of the organization at the conclusion of that conference. Her passion for the practice, evaluation and teaching of reminiscence and life review approaches led to countless workshops, articles, videos, and her book with John Kunz, Transformational Reminiscence: Life Story Work. Her efforts helped make the group and conference what it is today and the foundation she helped build will continue to grow in the spirit in which she served.
Keynote Speaker Gene Cohen, MD, PhD, Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, Washington DC, USA spoke on the Ongoing Psychological Growth with Aging: Autobiography and The Summing Up Phase.
Featured Member Accomplishment: John A. Kunz, Florence Gray Soltys
John A. Kunz & Florence Gray Soltys, Editors, Transformational Reminiscence, New York, Springer Publishing Company
2009 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2009 Conference: Featuring Susan Bluck, Living Parallel Lives: Reminiscence and autobiographical memory research
The 2009 IIRLR biennial conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia under President Thomas Pierce.
Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Philippe Cappeliez, PhD, C.Psych, Professor, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Future Of The Past: Some developmental reflections and Jeffrey Dean Webster, MEd, Instructor, Psychology Department, Langara College, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The Future Of The Past: Some developmental reflections.
James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: John Kunz, BSW, MS, Outreach Program Manager, University of Wisconsin-Superior, Health & Human Issues, Center for Continuing Education/Extension, Superior, WI, USA
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Patricia O’Neill, JD, MSG, MA, MS, Vail, Colorado, USA, Gender Differences Reflected in Autobiography: How men and women interpret their lives. First Year for the Florence Gray-Soltys Award
The keynote speaker was Susan Bluck, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Florida, USA on Living Parallel Lives: Reminiscence and autobiographical memory research.
John Kunz: Founder, Reminiscence Scholar, Visionary
In Memoriam: July 18, 1955 – July 23, 2011
The International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review (IIRLR) was founded by John Kunz in 1995 when he was Program Manager for the Health and Human Interests Program Area (HHI) of the Center for Continuing Education (CCE), of the University of Wisconsin – Superior (UWS). John Kunz was a psychotherapist, author, and educator in the field of mental health beginning in the 1970s. He began his career with an emphasis on family systems and conducted family assessment within the medical community in Duluth, MN and Superior, WI. John worked with clients of all ages and conducted individual, group, marital, and family therapy. He established the Reflections and Memories program at the Miller Dwan Medical Center in Duluth. In the 1980s John changed his focus to gerontology and geriatrics. John understood the power and importance of life review and reminiscence.
When John first met Robert Butler at the 1995 first National Reminiscence and Life Review conference held in Superior, WI, he gained the support and “you can do it” pat on the back he needed. Butler believed in John's vision and threw his support into the organization. In short order, James E. Birren, another pioneer in the field of narrative studies and aging, joined as well. From this simple start, an idea, a dream, a belief, reminiscence, and life review began to flourish in an organization called the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review. The International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review (IIRLR) was a small organization with a big heart. That modus operandi was initiated and fostered by John Kunz, through his charismatic and all-embracing personality captured everyone who came within his reach. John was the heart and soul of the IIRLR. The mission of IIRLR: To further define and develop the interdisciplinary field of reminiscence and life review through discussion and collaboration in practice, research, education, volunteer, and individual applications across the lifespan.
2011 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2011 Conference: Featuring Jennifer Wortham, The Art of Grieving: Healing Through Exploration and Play
The 2011 IIRLR biennial conference was held in Boston, Massachusetts under President Mary O’Brien Tyrrell.
In Memoriam: John Allan Kunz - July 18, 1955 - July 23, 2011
Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Toyoko Nomura, PhD, Professor, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan. “Weaving People, Time and Community Together in the Light of Reminiscence and Life Review Approach”
James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: Pam Schweitzer, MBE, BA, Honorary Literature, PGC E, Founder & Artistic Director, Age Exchange Theatre Trust, London, England Making Memories Matter: Reminiscence and Creativity
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Dorvat Harel, PhD Student, Bar IIan University, Israel. The Unforgotten Story - a Literary Analysis Of Life Stories of Older Adults with Dementia
The keynote speaker was Jennifer Wortham, LCSW, CT, Transitions: The Heart of Grieving The Art of Grieving: Healing Through Exploration and Play
2013 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review Inaugural Issue, Thomas Pierce 2013
2013 Conference: Featuring Thomas Meuser, Life Review Project: Stories from the Trenches
The 2013 IIRLR biennial conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana under President Philippe Cappeliez.
Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Susan Bluck, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL, USA Recognizing the Bonanza: Life Review in 2013
James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: Thomas W. Pierce, PhD, Department of Psychology, Radford University, Radford, VA, USA. Multimedia and the Practice of Reminiscence and Life Review.
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Jojanneke Korte, University of Twente, The Netherlands. The Stories We Live By: The Adaptive Role of Reminiscence In Later Life
The keynote speaker was Thomas Meuser, PhD, Associate Professor, Director, Gerontology Graduate Program, Coordinator, UMSL Life Review Project, School of Social Work, University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO, USA. UMSL Life Review Project: Stories from the Trenches
2015 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2015 Conference: Featuring Harry Moody, Dreams and Life Review
The 2015 IIRLR biennial conference was held in biennial conference held in Orlando, Florida under President Juliette Shellman where the guidelines for IIRLR operation were approved.
Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Brian de Vries, Ph.D.
James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: Cheryl Svensson, Ph.D.
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Kendra O’Hora, LGMFT, Department of Human Development, Virginia Tech. The Life Validation Interview: Application and Future Research
The John A. Kunz Award for Distinguished Service to the International Center for Life Story Innovations and Practice: Donna Sislo First Year for John Kunz Award
The keynote speaker was Harry “Rick” Moody, PhD. Dreams and Life-Review
Endings and New Beginnings: From the IIRLR to UConn ICLIP
In February 2017, the IIRLR was notified by UW-Superior they would no longer support the Institute with an end date of June 30, 2019. The proposal to transition to the UConn School of Nursing and apply to become a Center was approved by the Institute’s Advisory Board and its membership at the biennial meeting in Boston on November 13th, 2018.
Featured Member Accomplishment: Faith Gibson
Faith Gibson Editor, International Perspectives on Reminiscence, and Life Review and Life Story Work. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
2018 Conference: Featuring Jefferson Singer, The Varieties of Remembered Experience: Illustrating the Utility of Reminiscence Research
The 2018 IIRLR biennial conference was held in Boston, Massachusetts under President Juliette Shellman.
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Majse Lind, School of Business and Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Denmark. Personal and vicarious life stories in patients with borderline personality disorder.
The John A. Kunz Award for Distinguished Service to the International Center for Life Story Innovations and Practice: Barbara Haight
The keynote speaker was Jefferson Singer, PhD, MPhil, MS on The Varieties of Remembered Experience: Illustrating the Utility of Reminiscence Research.
The 2019 UConn Transition
In 2019, the institute transitioned to the UConn School of Nursing to become a Center approved by University of Connecticut Board of Trustees. They approved the International Center for Life Story Innovation and Practice (ICLIP) as an official Center of the University in May of 2019.
2021 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2021 Conference: Making Connections, The Virtual Opening of ICLIP
The International Center for Life Story Innovations and Practice held its first virtual conference marking it as a key entity in the field of reminiscence and life review. Sixty-four individuals registered for the conference representing the U.S. from Hawaii to Connecticut. Furthermore, we had representation from the Netherlands, Jordan, Japan, and Canada. We were pleased to have faculty and student representation from the University of Connecticut. The conference included a variety of approaches and topics representing the main themes that represent the philosophy and mission of the Center.
The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Philippe Cappeliez, Emeritus Professor, Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, Canada, and Past President, International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review. “What makes ICLIP unique and necessary.”
2022 Selected Conference Papers and Proceedings
2022 Conference: The Healing Power of Storytelling, Featuring Dr. Annie Brewster and Dr. Jonathan Alder
The 2022 biennial conference was held virtually as International Center for Life Story Innovation and Practice (ICLIP) UConn, Storrs, Connecticut under President Gerben Westerhof and President Elect Cheryl Brohard.
Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis Exemplar Research Award: Alison Kris, PhD, RN, Fairfield University, Connecticut
James and Betty Birren Exemplar Practice Award: Wendy Bancroft, MA, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Florence Gray-Soltys Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Research or Practice in the Field of Reminiscence and Life Review: Deniz Pamuk, MSc Ph.D. candidate, Akdeniz University, Dept of Gerontology, Turkey
The John A. Kunz Award for Distinguished Service to the International Center for Life Story Innovations and Practice: Juliette Shellman, PhD, RN, University of Connecticut
The keynote speakers were Dr. Annie Brewster from Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jonathan Alder from Olin College. “The Health Story Collaborative”.