OOTS making a difference in dementia homes

OOTS viola player Ruth Woolley and oboe player Louise Braithwaite play to care home residents

AS the summer season draws to a close and the musicians of Stratford’s Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS) momentarily set down their bows, care homes can reflect on their series of interactive workshops aimed at those living with dementia.

Performances have been taking place on a weekly basis in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, including Stratford homes at Cedar Lawn, in Welcombe Road, The Limes, in Alcester Road, Hylands House, in Warwick Road, Melville House, in New Street, Canning Court, in Canners Way, and Alveston Leys, in Alveston.

Interactive sessions have been offered in a group setting or, in the case of the less-able residents, a personal one-to-one performance in the comfort of their own room.

During a varied season of more than 90 workshops, a collection of duos and trios have been performing renditions of hymns, folk songs, classical pieces and well-known ditties to bring a little light to people living with dementia.

Sue Pope, OOTS’ learning and participation manager and dementia friends champion, said: “At the end of every session we encouraged players to think more deeply about how their music was reaching residents — the setting being so much more intimate than the concert hall where they usually perform. Music has such a powerful role in supporting people at whatever stage of their dementia journey.

“It is such an amazing experience to see people come alive with the music; join in, tap their feet, sing along and really get involved with the sessions. We are so pleased to be able to bring our professional musicians to these homes and know that our players are gaining a great deal from the experience too.”

Dr Anthea Holland of Mindsong, a music therapy charity with whom the orchestra has been delivering these valuable workshops, added: “As well as superb musicianship, players showed sensitivity in tailoring their performance to the mood of both the group and individuals in varying care home settings. The sessions helped residents with dementia to reconnect, bringing them not only joy but a sense of hope too.”

This project forms part of Orchestra of the Swan’s ongoing commitment to champion the role of music and the arts in helping people with dementia.

During 2016 alone, members of the orchestra have so far visited more than 20 care homes and performed to in excess of 200 residents.

The orchestra’s Artistic Director, David Curtis, has pledged to visit every care home in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, caring for those with dementia, over the next three years, a huge undertaking, but one that shows how important this work is to both the residents and the ensemble.

David said: “Music is a non-verbal means of communication, a language that tells a real story. The incredibly rewarding work the orchestra undertakes in these care homes has profound benefits not only for those living with dementia, but for their carers, their families and our own players.”

  • Suzanne Boston Lyon

    Music is very magical when it comes to memories. People should use a LifeSongs book to help spark memories. They have 12 pages for photos, but also 12 buttons to record their favorite songs. You can order one at LifeSongs.info.