MANY of the residents at Cooper House have memories of holidays in the sun with family and friends.

Some of them lived in other countries before they settled in Bradford, and still recall their earlier years overseas.

Memories of happy times on holiday are captured in framed photographs or albums in residents’ rooms, or souvenirs they still treasure from times past.

Now the Buttershaw care home has ‘set sail’ on its very own cruise liner...calling at various ports of call around the world.

Residents are enjoying the sights and cultural attractions of countries such as Austria, India and America - without leaving the comfort of their home.

Cooper House has been transformed into a cruise liner, with a range of entertainment, films, arts and crafts, music and food on offer on upper, middle and lower decks. Local singing groups and schoolchildren have got involved, making props and putting on performances, and engaging with the elderly residents of the care home.

The aim of the ‘virtual cruise’ is to prompt memories of holidays and countries the residents have visited or lived in.

“We’re re-creating the experience of a cruise ship - visiting different countries and getting involved with their cultures,” said activities manager Dawn McCormack. “We have a few residents who are originally from Ireland, India and Austria, they often talk about their lives over there, before re-locating to Bradford.

“Many of the residents have photos in their rooms of holidays and even cruises they’ve been on.

“Our cruise is all about re-creating those experiences and re-living those memories.”

Families and friends of residents turned out for last week’s launch of the cruise, with entertainment provided by sea shanty singing group the Land Lubbers. The first destination was Ireland, and over the next month the cruise will visit a different country each week.

In Austria the itinerary involves a screening of violinist Andre Rieu performing in Vienna; in China there will be tea-tasting and noodle-cooking sessions; and in Australia the cruise liner ‘passengers’ will be treated to a beach party and barbecue, and didgeridoo demonstrations. During India Week youngsters from Whetley Academy will be coming in to perform some Bollywood dancing.

The cruise ends in America, in time for July 4 celebrations. A finale cabaret will feature an Elvis tribute act. “Some residents remember the war and American GIs, so we hope to get some jiving going,” says Dawn.

“We’ll have burgers and hot dogs, and we’ll be showing documentaries about America and Independence Day celebrations, as well as Elvis films and old Hollywood classics.”

With many residents at the home having dementia, it is hoped that the cruise will trigger memories and reminiscence sessions.

Youngsters at Whetley Academy have been busy making colourful artwork for the cruise liner, and recently visited residents at Coope House.

Learning support assistant Farheen Hussain said: “When we heard about the project we really wanted to get involved. The pupils have painted things like port holes and underwater scenes, including mermaids, sharks and jellyfish. They have really enjoyed it.”

The virtual cruise was launched by Kathryn Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Alzheimer’s Society.

She said: “It was a great honour to ‘launch’ Cooper House' s virtual cruise and it‘s obvious that the residents are going to have a brilliant time in the coming months on their ‘world tour’.

“Research shows that reminiscence and bringing back long lost memories can make huge difference to the well-being of people living with dementia. Significant events like holidays and childhood experiences can bring back vivid memories and help people feel more emotionally secure in their daily lives.

“Alzheimer’s Society‘s Dementia Friendly Communities initiative encourages communities and volunteers to become more closely linked with residential care homes.

"It‘s great to see that schoolchildren will be so involved in this project alongside other local groups, bringing the community into a care setting and helping to make the residents feel part of their local community.”

Earlier this year the Telegraph & Argus reported on a reminiscence session at Heaton Grange care home, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK Bradford’s Military Memories team. Footage from the Yorkshire Film Archive was screened to stir memories and prompt discussions among people who served in and lived during the Second World War and other conflicts.

The wartime footage focussed on the Home Guard, the Land Army and evacuees, prompting several residents to talk about their own experiences in the war and post-war years. Items from the past such as a gas mask, an old pair of ice skates, a powdered egg tin and a pack of darts were also passed around during the sessions.