New app package keeps treasured LGBTQ+ memories alive for people living with dementia

New app package keeps treasured LGBTQ+ memories alive for people living with dementia

The memories of LGBTQ+ community members from across the globe have been captured in a new app package designed to help people living with dementia keep treasured moments alive.

LGBTQ+ charity Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard and National Museums Liverpool’s award-winning House of Memories programme have partnered to create an LGBTQ+ Memories section of the My House of Memories app, with the aim of creating connections between LGBTQ+ community members living with dementia and their loved ones.

Launched at the end of LGBT+ History Month, the app is a digital archive of memories from LGBTQ+ community members including experiences of nightclubs and social spaces, Pride, queer film, drag acts, trans heroes, queer activism and other LGBTQ+ role models.

The app also includes frank and honest memories from key moments in queer history, including the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, to document people’s experiences and feelings from the time.

Through audio descriptions, videos, music and images, users can explore memories and save their favourite objects to a memory tree and upload memories of their own to personalise their app.

Many objects in the app have been collected from Switchboard’s Bereavement, Older People and Dementia (BOLD) group of older LGBTQ+ community members, some of whom are living with dementia. Other sources for objects include Sheffield Museums Trust, The Keep archive in Brighton, Queer Heritage South, Museum of Transology, Digital Transgender Archive, Drag King History, The Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics Library, and Bishopsgate Institute Special Collections and Archives.

In a first for the My House of Memories app, contributors also spoke on video about their experiences, which are available to watch in the package. Daithi is a member of BOLD and a person living with dementia. In the video, they speak about a photograph of them during their time as part of The Pink Angels, an anti-violence street patrol group which marched in the Chicago Pride parades of the mid-1990s.

Daithi said: “For me, as a person living with dementia, that photo will live on long after me and will tell my story. That’s why I did it [contributed to the new app package] – to let others know I was here, I was queer and I was fabulous!”

Emily Farmer, BOLD Co-ordinator at Switchboard, said: “We’ve worked to make this collection genuinely diverse and representative of the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve included objects relevant to intersex people, bisexual people, the trans community, lesbians, non-binary people, LGBTQ+ people of colour, LGBTQ+ disabled people and LGBTQ+ people of faith – all these groups’ stories are less often told in the mainstream narrative of LGBTQ+ history.

“You often hear people say that ‘it was just gay and lesbian back then’. These objects show that this isn’t the case. These groups have always been here, even when they didn’t have the words for it.”

Funded by a £25,000 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK, Switchboard has been working with House of Memories to develop the new section of the app, LGBTQ+ Memories, since March last year.

Lizzie Salter, Programme Manager at House of Memories, said: “Co-creating this app package with people living with dementia within the LGBTQ+ community has been a delight. It has really shown the potential of the My House of Memories app in connecting people through memories.

“Working with the group at Switchboard has allowed the app to not only display objects and stories that relate to those within the LGBTQ+ community, but for the first time the app has included those stories as recorded videos from the group themselves.”

Switchboard’s LGBTQ+ section is accessible now through the My House of Memories app, which is available on Apple and Android devices. For more information visit: