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Life Story Books - “Chocolate for the Brain”

By Rachel Lewis, Life Story Writer at Presenting Your Past

Imagine if you could plan an activity for someone in your care that would be like “Chocolate for the Brain”

In his book, The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, Dr. Gene Cohen explained how in later life, activities such as autobiography and the arts offer tangible benefits – comparing them to “Chocolate for the Brain.”

Life Story Books are a perfect example of this theory in action- celebrating and capturing key milestones in stories and pictures. These feel-good projects offer immediate therapeutic benefits for an individual, particularly in preserving precious memories. They’re also appreciated by family and friends, creating a legacy for generations to come.

However, there are also equally valuable long-term benefits for care staff too. A York University research project concluded that Life Story Books were highly effective in improving person-centered care:

We think it helps staff to see the person behind the illness,” said Kate Gridley, Research Fellow in the Social Policy Research Unit who led the study.

Staff can make a connection and it brings it home that this person could be like their mum, or their dad. Or they might find out they share interests. Without that ‘hook’, it could be difficult to communicate in a meaningful way.”

The books also proved to be useful in managing challenging behaviour, particularly in cases of dementia, where an understanding of a patient’s past is invaluable.

A member of staff told us about a man who would often lie under the table – it was difficult to persuade him to come out. But he’d worked as a mechanic most of his life – for him being under the table was like working under a car. Once the staff understood this, they would tell him it was time for a tea break – and he’d reappear.”

Even in cases of advanced dementia, Life Story Books can still trigger positive emotions, helping de-escalate and calm difficult situations.

The York study showed that although many homes and care providers offered some form of Life Story work, the quality of this work varied considerably. At Presenting Your Past, we’ve built on the best practice guidelines developed at York, and for the last 10 years have worked with individuals, care homes and charities to support them in creating books that are as enjoyable and effective as possible.

We offer care staff in-person and online training, providing practical tips and templates to follow. At a time when care home staff are particularly struggling to balance engaging activities with essential care, we also offer practical help and support. Staff receive the training and tools to conduct the interviews, and then we can liaise with families, source photos and provide all the design and printing services.

So, if you fancy a bit of “Chocolate for your Brain” then please do get in touch.

For more information about the York study see:

To find out more about Life Story Books contact Rachel on 07583297432 or


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