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Memory Care: Olfactory-evoked Recall - the Connection Between Scent and Memory

by Melrose Gardens

Memory Care: Olfactory-evoked Recall - the Connection Between Scent and Memory

Scent is both a strange and wonderful sense. Whether it’s the aroma of freshly baked bread bringing us back to childhood, or a particular perfume reminding us of a loved one, we all know the experience of a specific odor inducing powerful feelings and memories.

The relationship between scent and memory is not just a common experience; it can also be an important component of memory care. As a senior living community in Los Angeles providing specialized memory care services, Melrose Gardens is intimately familiar with the connection between scent and memory.

Memory Care: Olfactory-evoked Recall - the Connection Between Scent and Memory


Scent and Nostalgia

Though all of our senses can provoke emotional experiences, the sense of smell is the only one that sends signals directly to the brain’s emotion and memory centers. The way that smell is uniquely processed in the brain is why certain odors can cause us to feel as if we’re reliving vivid memories. This phenomenon is well-studied and is known to scientists as olfactory-evoked recall.


For some people, this involves experiencing the feelings associated with a memory more than remembering the memory itself. That’s how the smell of a wood fire in the brisk night air may evoke a sense of contentment and warmth, rather than bringing up a distinctive memory of sitting around a campfire as a child.


Scent and Healing

The unique power of scent lends itself well to memory care. Familiar smells can help remind one of pleasant feelings and memories from the past and encourage engagement and connection. Essential oils can also be an effective way to inspire comfort and improve well-being.


Aromatherapy, frequently used in spa settings, is also scientifically supported as a way to enhance cognition and improve mood in Alzheimer’s patients. Soothing fragrances such as lavender and lemon balm can induce relaxation, improve sleep, and ease anxiety, while other scents like peppermint and rosemary can be stimulating.


In Closing

Memory care is an essential service for many families, and sensory therapy can be a powerful tool. By connecting us with memories and inspiring warm feelings, scent can help inspire familiarity and comfort in our surroundings.


At Melrose Gardens, we understand how scent is an important part of creating spaces that are both engaging and comfortable. We’re committed to providing a senior living community that is both compassionate and relationship-focused, including high-quality memory care services. If you’re exploring memory care options in Los Angeles for a family member, please contact us for more information or tour our community.

Works Cited

Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease.”  9 December, 2009.