Transforming Communities

What happens in a ‘singing care home’?

Singing in care homes is 10% inspiration, 90% bricklaying. There’s a lot to get neatly into place before (and during, and after) a singing session to make the most of theat experience.

Before you talk, read up

  • Find out about the home and its culture:
  • Does it do any singing already? If so, how will yours be different and necessary?
  • If not, does that mean they’ve tried and rejected it – or is it an unfilled opportunity?
  • In discussions with the Care Quality Commission, we have produced a working paper about how care guidelines might be supported by singing and musical activities.
  • We have collected a selection of downloadable Handbooks for you, with specific advice and tips about leading music and singing sessions for older people.

Before you sing, talk

  • Key contact in most homes is the activities coordinator
  • This is partly a marketing exercise – what are you offering, what is the home wanting.
  • Some homes will need convincing of the value of your work – read our 7 Headlines.
  • For some, there will be sticking points. Your task is to be accommodating. eg no piano? we’ll bring a keyboard. For typical sticking points and suggested answers see this page from our Toolkit for Care Homes.
  • Either the activities coordinator or the home’s manager might want detailed evidence of the value of singing. It’s all in our literature review.

Before you sing, sing

Getting the staff on your side is crucial to the success of your work.

  • Try to ensure at least they understand and value what you’re doing, at best supporting it and taking part.
  • Hunt the musicians: most care homes are likely to have at least one worker who sings in some form or another. You’ll gain much by building the confidence of those workers and others about their singing in general, and their abilities to lead in particular.
  • Doing some singing with them will convince!

When you’re singing, choose songs carefully

Established singing leaders tell us:

  • They have a large range of songs they know by rote and teach orally, built up over many years
  • Songs from the 40s can be limiting and stereotyping
  • Backing tracks may help inexperienced groups and their leaders, but can be limiting
  • If you want accompaniment to your singing, a guitar enables you to move around
  • Percussion instruments for residents to play can be a good idea
  • Song sheets (large print!) can be useful; here’s a selection

After you’ve sung, sing

Do more singing:

  • Our Surveys showed that homes that sing do so in lots of different ways throughout the day.
  • Training care workers to sing, encouraging the use of singalong CDs or a more formal music box – turns an ordinary home into a Singing Home!