Music as Therapy: Merton Dementia Hub (Merton 2020-present)
Instigated by Past Master John Nichols in 2019, the Musicians’ Company has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society to deliver regular concerts by our Young Artists at the Merton Dementia Hub. Daniel Steiner, Community Dementia Adviser, writes about the project below. As of January 2023 we have delivered 26 one-hour interactive concerts at the Hub.
Listening to music is a universal experience.
Research has shown that music can affect in many good ways, someone affected by dementia. It can help reduce anxiety and depression, help maintain speech and language, is helpful at the end of life, enhances quality of life and has a positive impact on carers as they can see their loved ones engaging and enjoying themselves. The flexibility of music enables different levels of participation and offers opportunities for the musical experience to be person-centered. It can support memory recall, and the ability to appreciate and engage with music remains intact even as cognitive functions deteriorate.
Musical engagement offers a way to keep in touch with, and explore one’s own creativity, opening up new or unfamiliar ways for self-expression and communication that do not rely on the use of words. Music can offer and provide new experiences, hearing unfamiliar music, playing an instrument, singing with others in a choir for the first time. On the other hand, using music that is familiar and preferred by someone living with dementia can bring to life a memory, provide an opportunity to engage in an activity, which may stimulate emotions and movement (dance), address social and spiritual needs, and help connect with others and themselves.
There are many stories and examples where music in care homes and in institutions is extraordinarily effective at bringing people together and stimulating memories. Memorable stories of individuals who were withdrawn and apathetic who have been brought back to life by listening to their favourite music, and most people will be aware of the positive benefits of “Singing for the Brain”. Music can go to places where other things or activities do not reach, and the shared experience and friendships can have a positive benefit. When a music session ends, even if the person doesn’t recall what happened, that good feeling will remain within and reflects on the persons’ mood, often for the rest of the day.
This is the experience during the ‘Musicians’ Company Concerts’ which were kindly granted by The Musicians’ Company organisation to our clients at Merton Dementia Hub. Since 2019, it has become successful; even during the pandemic we managed to get most of our clients online to join the concert via ‘Zoom’. Back face-to-face at the end of 2021, this series of concerts remains one of the most popular groups at the Hub, enabling the audience to access the benefits mentioned above.
Every other month, two talented musicians come to play their instruments to our clients. The duets are formed by different instruments every session and very interestingly combined. From piano to bassoon and playing a repertoire that goes from classical to modern music, the very skilled musicians manage to engage and encourage the audience to join in, sing along and clap their hands. The highlight at every concert, is when they play with the audience the game ‘Name that Tune’ that consists of playing the first two or three notes from a famous song and asking the audience to guess the song they will play. Every time is different, but always a very enjoyable experience that improves our clients’ quality of life.
Therefore, we really hope to continue our relationship with The Musicians’ Company and for the much-loved concert programmes to remain part of our service offer to our clients.
Daniel Steiner, Community Dementia Adviser, January 2023, email@example.com
Find out more about Singing for the Brain | Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk) HERE