JWT Singapore and Givaudan create ‘Smell a Memory’ kits to help Alzheimer’s patients


smellmemory2.jpgJWT Singapore has teamed with global fragrance house Givaudan to create a first of a kind bespoke “Smell a Memory” kit – a unique innovation that harnesses the power of scent to evoke emotional memories among Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Alzheimer’s and memory loss caused by dementia affect 35.6 million people worldwide.

“Our sense of smell is one of our most visceral instincts. It has an instant and powerful connection to memories, especially emotional ones,” said Juhi Kalia, JWT Singapore ECD. “We thought, ‘What if we can use smell to bring evoke memories and emotions in these patients?”

JWT worked with Givaudan, the fragrance industry leader and partner to prestige, personal & home care brands worldwide, to create bespoke ‘Smell a Memory” kits. The kits are personalized and custom-created for individual patients based on each patient’s family history, ethnicity, age and personal stories. Givaudan’s perfumers, in consultation with therapists and rehabilitation experts, tailor-made and bottled unique smells such as “Bedtime Stories”, “Mom’s Cooking”, “Prayer”, “School Days” and more to provoke engagement through experiential smells. The scents used ingredients relevant to Singapore, including herbs and spices from everyday Singaporean dishes, Hainanese coffee, incense used in local temples and other scents that reminded people of school, holidays and work life.

smellmemory3.jpgsmellmemory .jpg“We wanted the smells in the kits to have a narrative quality. The idea was to evoke emotional memories not just factual ones. Scents that could open the floodgates to a story or a certain time in their lives and all the feelings associated with that memory,” says Kalia.

Working with medical staff at Soo’s Nursing Home and another care facility in Singapore, the team tested the power of scent in therapy sessions. The Smell a Memory kits proved to be an incredibly powerful tool, sparking memories in some patients, and stimulating strong emotions in others. While regular aromas have been used to uplift moods, this is perhaps the first time complex fragrance have been created to evoke emotional memories.

“One of the key goals of therapy for Dementia patients is to draw them out and help them re-engage with the world and with loved ones. Over time, these patients become withdrawn and lose interest in food, activities and the people around them. A tool like this, that can awaken their senses and emotions, is critical to their emotional and physical health,” said Andrew Soo, Manager from Soo’s Nursing home.

A number of the patients, who are often listless, withdrawn and uncommunicative, became excited and lively after smelling the kits, engaging in animated conversations with family members and therapists. That, in turn, created an equally emotional experience for family members.

“I believe it will help in her recovery of a certain part of her memory of us,” said Mavis Han, the daughter of 85-year-old Han Yoke Kin ,who took part in the program. “I don’t want her to forget us.”

The Singapore project was so successful that Givaudan now plans to extend the programme to other regions, as part of their sustainability program. JWT and Givaudan Singapore are also in the process of organizing further trails at two of Singapore’s largest hospitals.