A pilot of a new music therapy program involving residents playing and making music aims to engage people living with dementia and improve the quality of life of participants.
New South Wales-based residential and home aged care and retirement living provider Fresh Hope Care has partnered with Western Sydney University and music social enterprise I’m Soul Inc to improve resident outcomes through music.
The program focuses on incorporating interactive music making in residential aged care and is funded by Fresh Hope Care and a grant Western Sydney University received from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
The 12-month pilot involves Western Sydney University students teaching residents at Fresh Hope Care’s Ashwood facility in Pendle Hill, Sydney, to play a musical instrument using music making equipment provided by I’m Soul Inc.
Fresh Hope Care executive director Natalie Cook said the program had a two-pronged approach.
“It aims to teach residents to play an instrument and to also use the music making equipment to make music of their own,” Ms Cook told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“There is a solid basis for believing in fantastic outcomes from a program like this, from both a social and clinical perspective,” Ms Cook said.
Participants will also have the opportunity to be socially active, she said.
The pilot will investigate the aged care sector’s ability to improve care services for residents with a physical or cognitive impairment, she said.
Ms Cook said staff will also benefit from the music therapy program as they will be able to better connect with the services they provide and develop their own music skills.
Fresh Hope Care will look at implementing the program in its other facilities after the pilot has been evaluated, she said.
Start your own choir
Elsewhere, Creativity Australia, a charitable organisation that promotes social inclusion through its With One Voice Choir programs, is offering $10,000 grants for communities including aged care facilities and retirement villages to start their own choir.
The choirs aim to build a bridge of understanding between diverse individuals as well as offer the health benefits of singing, said Creativity Australia founder Tania de Jong, a soprano and social entrepreneur.
“There is increasing evidence about the neuroscientific benefits of singing, particularly for brain and neural plasticity and improving memory, language and concentration, particularly as the brain ages,” Ms de Jong told AAA.
Creativity Australia has created a how-to guide and social franchise model to help communities set up their own choir program led by a professional conductor.
“You can start up a With One Voice social franchise and we will mentor you and give you all the tools to run a program in your facility or village and change your community,” Ms de Jong said.
Creative Australia’s goal is to create healthier and more inclusive communities, she said.
“Singing is a game changer. It is a miracle drug and it is free,” Ms de Jong said.
A With One Voice community choir is in its fifth years at aged care providers Benetas’ St George’s residential aged care facility. It involves residents and their family members, staff and other people from the local community.
There are up to 40 members including up to 15 residents participating at peak times plus other residents who watch the practice or listen from their rooms, said Carol Digna, community coordinator of residential care at Benetas St George’s facility.
“The choir has proven to be highly engaging for our residents. Not only for those who sing in the choir but there is also a large number of residents who come out of their rooms each week to observe choir practice,” Ms Digna told AAA.
Creativity Australia’s start-up grant applications for round seven close on 31 August. Round eight is open from 1 September until 9 November. Find out more here.
Parts of this article are taken from a story that appears in the current July-August edition of Australian Ageing Ageing magazine.
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