On 28th October I joined a Singing for the Brain session supported by the Alzheimers Society. It was a cold, rainy day, but despite this there was a good number of people there – 20 in total with 9 clients and 11 carers/musicians/volunteers. The session began with tea and cake and as people arrived they were given name labels.
An opening song welcomed everybody and affirmed each person by name – always an important aspect of building relationships within a group. An interesting action to this song was to pass around a long ribbon which each person held – and then for everyone to raise their arms, guiding people’s hands with the ribbon, if they were unsure or unco-ordinated for any reason, and it was a way of linking each person together.
My criticism of the session was that it perhaps ‘rattled through’ the repertoire a bit too quickly. We really covered a lot of songs and at times I had the feeling that the clients’ voices were being ‘pasted over’. Another aspect which I, and perhaps others, found difficult was the noise level, especially during the songs which included percussion instruments. This may have been because of the acoustics of the room.
A real challenge for people providing participatory music for older people with dementia is being able to guide them through repertoire in a way which allows that person to express themselves and to engage with others around them.
This session was enjoyed by most of the participants present. It also felt like a great way of bringing together carers going through similar situations. One woman I spoke to who was caring for her husband who had had a stroke commented most strongly on the social aspect of the singing group, and the importance of being with other people, which ties in with a school of thought that social relationships are a major determinant on health.