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These Retired Women Have Compiled Memory Boxes To Remind Them Of Their Lives

"It’s lovely to be able to look at all of these pictures. They bring back so many memories," Betty Green, aged 99, told BuzzFeed.

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As we age, we can begin to lose our memories, and the pictures, trinkets and tokens we've collected during our lives become important links to happy times that have passed.

When residents arrive at Sunrise Senior Living in Surrey, they are encouraged to make a “memory box”, which is displayed outside their rooms, and acts as a reminder of the things they have seen and done.

This has proved particularly helpful for those who suffer with dementia.

When BuzzFeed visited recently, five residents shared their memory boxes, and the happy stories they contain, with us...

Betty Green, 99.

"I had a very happy marriage. I love the picture of me and my husband with our son and our daughter when they were babies. It brings back very happy memories.

"It’s years since my husband died.

"I can’t remember where a lot of these were taken now.

"I must be with my grandchildren in the ones at the bottom where I'm holding babies because I have grey hair!

"I don’t know what’s in that jug that I’m drinking from, but I remember that I was on holiday.

"It’s lovely to be able to look at all of these pictures. They bring back so many memories."

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Jill Silsby, 90

"We had this plaque on our house in Saudi Arabia, where we lived. That’s 'Silsby' in Arabic.

"The houses there aren’t numbered, so you have a plaque like this on the wall outside the door to say who you are.

"I’ve lived in India, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, South Africa, all over the place.

"I loved living in India the most. That’s my favourite place on earth. I was born in the military hospital in Delhi when my father was a general in the army. I went back many times, it’s a wonderful, beautiful place.

"I’m lucky to have lived in or visited most parts of the world, other than the North and South Pole, because there aren’t many animals there.

"My husband and I travelled all over the world researching birds and dragonflies, which I’ve written books about.

"The first book I wrote has a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh.

"I’ve loved writing about dragonflies – I’m still the world expert on them and president of the world dragonfly society.

"Africa and India probably have the best ones.

"There are thousands of incredible varieties of dragonfly, and they’re all beautiful."

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Audrey Neville, 78

"I don’t know how it started but when I was still at home, I had about 255 owls around my house.

"There was everything from an owl pencil to some really lovely ornaments and pictures, all sorts of things.

"I remember getting a couple of owl things that I liked a few years ago, and friends and family must have clocked onto it, because then I started getting them for birthdays, or they’d bring them back from holidays and if anybody came over instead of bringing chocolates, they might being owls. The collection grew and grew.

"The paper owls in my memory box were a card that my sister gave me when I arrived here to say ‘welcome to your new home’.

"The photograph is me doing a talk at my WI about my owl collection – they wanted us all to do a ten minute talk on something we loved, and I presented information about owls. It worked really well!

"When I came here, I thought, I’ll leave all that behind, and bring just a few, because they have been a big part of my life.

"Of course, the collection has just risen again since I got here. Now I’ve got about 90!

"They are very much a part of my home that has come with me."

Sheila Barham, 85

"The wedding photograph was taken in 1952. Everything was still on coupons then!

"My husband and I later took up golf, and we were both captains at different clubs.

"I had forty years of lovely golf, which was really enjoyable.

"Golf led to bridge so I had to include a card in my memory box.

"My husband worked as an aviation underwriter, and we got to travel a lot with his job. We would take around two trips a year, often to Australia or America. We also loved to go cruising.

"In the photograph of my husband and I having drinks on holiday, he was actually very ill. He had cancer and was given a very bad prognosis but ended up living sixteen years after that, so he thought he was immortal.

"The family photo in the centre was taken two weeks before he died. My son lives in America now, and we just happened to have everyone together. To have got this photograph was really nice."

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Adele Viney, 83

"I used to dance a lot at the Locarno ballroom in Streatham, where I was brought up.

"I ended up acting too – professionally as well for a small while. When I was 14 I went to Italia Conti drama school in Soho on a Saturday morning. I looked so young, and I got a lot of work, even though I was at school in Streatham all week.

"I’d get called up all the time, which my school didn’t like, but my father loved it because it was a little money maker.

"I was in rep at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln for a while, but otherwise I did lots of bits and pieces – film extra work, anything I could get my hands on really.

"I joined a theatre company in London, which was based in the city, but we went to Germany, where we performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the River Rhine, and we went to Amsterdam and lots of Europe’s main cities.

"Before I came here I’d perform at the Minack Theatre on the cliffs in Cornwall every two years. It’s such a beautiful place.

"I was always more of an actress than a dancer, but my husband Peter and I would go in for jive competitions in Streatham, where we met. We’d perform in the ‘old people’s home’, as I called it then!

"My father was a professional musician – he was a very good trumpet player. It might not mean much to you now, but he played with Ambrose, who was a huge band leader in the 1920s.

"Fred Astaire wrote to my father to insist he played with him when he was in London. His sister, Adele Astaire, is who I was christened after.

"I definitely got my performing genes from my father, but I’m not musical at all. Rhythm, dancing, acting, yes, but a musician, no. I wish I was!"


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