A new, Sydney-based music therapy program, which sees dementia patients participating in silent discos, is helping to improve mental health and well-being.
For one hour each week, participants listen to a curated sound track through wireless headphones, while singing and dancing under the guidance of a music therapist. Songs include a selection from the 1940s, ’50s and ’50s, including those by The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, as well as modern chart-toppers.
“One lady, who hardly ever speaks a word, for an hour after the class she was going around talking fluidly to everyone,” Alison Harrington, who organises the Moove and Groove program via DiscoD Tours, told the ABC. “This switches on pathways in the brain that aren’t otherwise accessible. Everyone comes out smiling.”
Sessions are currently running at Narrabeen RSL TLC Centre and Manly Senior Citizens. Participants are welcome to turn up on a casual basis and try a class.
In addition, Ms Harrington recently conducted a dementia-specific trial of Moove and Groove, with the support of a NSW Livable Communities Grant. The trial found that participants experienced higher levels of engagement, increased participation in exercise, reduced agitation, improved cognition, better mental health and higher levels of overall happiness.
The use of headphones was found to be key. When they were removed, participants’ concentration and enjoyment levels dropped by half. “It helps them to focus; it’s like someone is talking right to them in their head,” Rose Rowlson, a dementia consultant who worked on the trial, told the ABC. “A lot of people with dementia get really distracted … and there’s no distraction when wearing headphones.”
Moove and Groove has received further funding from NSW Livable Communities. Ms Harrington is hoping to expand the program to retirement villages, aged care homes and community centres around Australia.