A New Challenge

I’m just home from a residential care home, having led a short ‘taster’ session. It was seriously challenging as well as being enjoyable too.

It is a fairly large residential care home, with a fantastic ethos – the activities co-ordinator frequently takes some of the residents to the pub! As with larger numbers of people, there is bound to be a greater diversity of people in terms of their abilities/limitations. Having previously met some of the residents, I wasn’t quite prepared (in terms of variety of songs/resources) to cater for the different levels that I found there. Although the session went reasonably smoothly, and part of the reason for this taster session was to gauge people’s needs, I was disappointed that I had not been able to engage with every person, and draw them into what I hoped to be an enjoyable and uplifting musical experience.

Having said this, many participants did enjoy themselves. Some were singing along and using percussion instruments to beat (or shake) in time. I think a small change of mixing up the people of different abilities would help enormously, as it would enable the less able people to feel more involved.

Key Learning:

  • Take in more material than you plan to use, including songs of varying complexity, from the very simple, to the more difficult.
  • Develop songs or activities to assess people’s different levels.
  • Underline the importance of a tailored music session and emphasise the point of a taster session
  • Don’t be afraid to ask staff for small changes in the set-up. They want the sessions to be positive, as much as you do.
  • Enjoy it! Even if you feel like you are struggling, keep going, keep being enthusiastic, don’t give up.

2 thoughts on “A New Challenge

  1. Michael Trew

    Hi Rachel,

    Great to read your blog (and be the first to comment?!). I am a community musician beginning work in Buckinghamshire, and have been involved working with older people and those with dementia too.

    Your sessions sound exciting and effective in bringing people together and enjoying the benfits of singing, perhaps we could do some work together one time? It’s always helpful to be able to share experiences and challenges and positive stories too.

    Feel free to drop me an email


  2. Rachel Post author

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I am hoping this blog will be a space for sharing learning – even if sometimes it feels scary to share what went wrong! I think it is more helpful to be honest about my work because that’s how I will move forward as a practitioner, and hopefully add to the collective learning of the sector of arts and health. And I agree, it is always good to share the positives too.


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