Garden gigs bring joy to adults with dementia and complex needs

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“The most memorable moment was when an elderly man with learning difficulties enjoyed performing ballet throughout our concert; dancing, pirouetting and twirling with staff members.”

-Taff Duo Musicians

Shortly before the pandemic changed all our lives, Live Music Now received a grant to run a music residency in two care homes. Two sessions ran as scheduled in March 2020. Then the pandemic arrived, and plans changed.

The care homes didn’t want to move the music sessions online. So they fell on the idea of garden gigs, bringing the joy of music to care home residents, and relief for staff working through the pandemic.

Staff at one home said: 'The musicians were engaging with the residents it was fun and everyone that wanted to join in had a great time...would love for this to be a regular part of life.”

Improving wellbeing and combating isolation and loneliness

The Musical Care Homes project aimed to bring the joy of music to Bristol care home residents with advanced dementia and complex needs. Thanks to this Quartet grant Live Music Now worked in local care homes so that:

·         residents benefited from three concert tours in Summer 2020, Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021

·         professional musicians from Bristol and Cardiff offered 18 concerts in total for all residents and staff in the six homes

·         performances ranged from Hopkins Oliver Duo (jazz) to folk duo Bowreed and Taff Duo (classical)

·         residents enjoyed singing (within guidelines), moving to music and using percussion instruments.

“We performed music outside, under apple trees, parasols and through windows. The atmosphere was great and the residents were so happy to be able to share in the joy of live music once again."

Laughing and toe-tapping

Anna MacGregor, Programme Manager from Live Music Now said:

“The Musical Care Home project sessions give residents regular enjoyable events to look forward to, which evoke memories and provide a talking point and stimulus for social interactions. This brings them closer to the staff who care for them.

“Staff at venues were asked to complete a survey after each performance. All homes reported positive responses from the participants to the performance including smiling, laughter, singing, tapping feet /fingers, conducting. All homes reported increased engagement during the performance with residents being interested, chatty, friendly, enthusiastic and appreciative.

“The majority of homes also reported increased engagement after the performance.

“Quartet have been very helpful during the pandemic when we were no longer able to deliver the project as initially planned.”

Research shows that music brings many benefits for people with dementia, who can often recall tunes heard long ago

The need for the project

Care home residents face many challenges including, but in no means limited to:

·         Loss of contact with family and friends, as care homes closed their doors due to Covid restrictions

·         In excess of 70% of care home residents live with dementia or have significant memory problems.

How can music projects benefit people in care homes?

In 2018 Live Music Now, with the University of Winchester, published ‘Live Music in Care’, a study of the impact of music interventions in care homes. The study concluded that regular music-making enhances the working and living environment for care home residents and staff.

Care homes in the project have said they’d like more music activities.

Live Music Now have now been awarded funding to continue the work from J&M Britton Foundation.