More on Working with Older People

Current population projections suggest that the number of people aged 85 and over will more than double between 2008 and 2033 to reach 3.3 million and that at least a third of that number will be living with dementia. It is currently estimated that 80% of care home residents live with dementia or have significant memory problems. A recent report by the Alzheimer's Society highlights that older people in care homes often have long periods of time without contact with family and friends and found that a quarter (28%) of family members thought the quality of life of the person with dementia in a care home is poor.

The Department of Health and devolved governments of the UK have created new strategies for providing care and support for people with dementia and their families. A key strand is the theme of improving quality of life for those living with dementia by lessening the use of anti psychotic drugs and increasing meaningful activity. As this becomes an urgent challenge for society it is critical that innovative, cost effective, non-pharmacological ways of improving the quality of life for this group are found.

How music helps

It has been shown that participating in arts activities is extremely beneficial for older people with dementia, improving such things as communication, memory, enjoyment of life and creative thinking. A recent review on the Impact of Participatory Arts on Older People, by the Mental Health Foundation commissioned and funded by the Baring Foundation acknowledges the value for people taking part in arts programmes including:

  • improved communication between residents and between residents and staff
  • a sense of self-identity and a feeling of being valued
  • positive effects on physical wellbeing through taking part in singing and dancing
  • enhanced opportunities for individual care by using the music sessions as a way of increasing staff knowledge of each person in their care
We believe that our work in care homes across the UK provides essential social and emotional support for older people.

LMN Musicians in Residence programme

After a group of musicians have been selected in consultation with care staff, they make regular visits to the care home over an agreed period - typically 10 visits over three months - each session lasting an hour. Performances are most effective when staff are actively involved so we work hard to involve staff and the support of the manager from the outset. The musicians offer a one-off session with staff so they have a better understanding of what will go on. Staff and musicians get to know each other to enable them to work together more effectively and staff learn how to help residents get the best out of the music sessions - such as how to set up the room, handling instruments and how to help residents join in with dancing whatever their level of ability. Above all, the musicians are able to demonstrate the value of using live music in care homes as a tool for increasing staff knowledge about those in their care. As residents respond, join in, recall memories of musical moments in their lives the staff have the opportunity to build closer relationships, learning more about what is important to each individual.

All residents are welcome to attend the music sessions and encouraged to come along each week. During initial sessions LMN musicians establish relationships and build trust with the group through discussion, reminiscence and music. Participants are encouraged to use memories, stories, songs and percussion activities as a way of maximising involvement in the sessions. Through the skill and sensitive interventions of LMN musicians, in immediate response to participants, the sessions develop from being performance and repertoire based into responsive, creative workshops with a focus on singing. As the weeks progress, communication grows, reminiscences and pleasure in the music emerge and musical preferences come to the fore. Our musicians are happy to create group and individualised 'playlists' to be used after the project has finished.

Those who have taken part in LMN sessions tell us that they feel happier, more stimulated and less lonely. We believe that this improvement in individuals' wellbeing and staff and residents' communication results in positively influencing the 'culture' of the care home. New information about each individual, which is learned in the music sessions, can be built on by staff in the daily lives of the residents throughout the rest of the week.

Click here for a leaflet on working in care homes

Music in the community

The most prominent challenge for older people is loneliness and social isolation. Nearly 50% of people aged 75 and over live on their own and spend an average of 80% of their time in the home. Older people therefore face long periods with no contact with the outside word and their family. It has been reported that 17% of older people had less than weekly, and 11% less than monthly, contact with family, friends and neighbours. With nearly a fifth of people over the age of 75 stating that they 'felt lonely much of the time during the past week' the need for social interaction and community engagement activities is clear. Live Music Now's Songs and Scones programme addresses this need, bringing together older people in the community for social and musical sessions, making them feel valued members of society and enabling them to meet new people.

Click here for a leaflet on working in the community

Find out more

If you would like to find out more about our work, please contact:

T: 020 7759 1803
E: [email protected]