Dementia Sings Out
Posted on 29th September 2022 at 10:18
"It’s somewhere to forget about your worries and troubles for an hour. It’s a real ‘boost’ - Jeanette.
Every Thursday morning at 10.30 in Wellingborough’s Everyday Champions Centre, those living with dementia, their friends and carers gather to sing.
They are linked, not only through their various diagnoses, but also through stronger forces – that of community, friendship and a shared passion for music. I was lucky enough to be invited along to one of their sessions to learn more about the positive impact that this initiative has on so many lives and saw for myself the genuine warmth, joy and the strong bonds sparked by the DSO (Dementia Sings Out) choir.
Dementia is, according to Age Uk, rapidly becoming the Health and Social Care challenge of the 21st century.
But what exactly is it and does singing really help?
Dementia is, surprisingly, not a disease but an umbrella term to describe the symptoms caused by other diseases which affect the brain.
These include Alzheimer’s Disease and the damage caused to the brain by strokes. With an estimated 850,000 people currently living in the UK with the condition, cases are expected to soon exceed 1 million. Although there is no known cure, there are ways to alleviate symptoms; access to music is certainly one of them.
Inspired by the BBC program ‘My Dementia Choir’, members of the Wellingborough Gospel Choir saw the positive impact that Vicky McClure’s choir had on its members. With the help of some private funding and Dementia Friends’ training, they set about creating their own choir, DSO. Initially members were friends and family but participation has since flourished to include members of all ages – from tiny babies to great-grandmothers.
Led by the Wellingborough Gospel Choir’s Musical Director, Gareth Fuller, the group raise the roof singing along to such classic songs as ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘My Guy’ and ‘Top of the World’. Ruth, one of the Trustees and a founding member, spoke of how ‘musical memory is one of the last parts of the brain to be impaired with dementia.’
Indeed, research has shown that the younger a person was when they first heard the music, the more likely it will stay in their memory. Even if the song is unfamiliar, however, the reaction is still the same – everyone is either singing, tapping their feet or dancing.
Involvement – whether waving a maraca, joining in the Love Train or belting out a classic tune – is obvious and not just in the room itself. The session is livestreamed to local Care Homes and individuals so they can still enjoy and benefit from everything the choir has to offer. It is not just those living with Dementia who benefit however, it is their carers, their families and friends. Comments such as:
"Thanks for letting me have my mother back for an hour or It’s so nice to take the pressure off" or "It’s great to feel part of a community are sources of justifiable pride for the charity’s trustees."
The DSO charity’s impact is perhaps best explored through the members’ testimonies. I spoke to Mike, Sandy and Jeanette who had been members of the choir for nearly a year. Mike heard of the choir through his links with the local golf club (which has been a great source of fundraising) and he invited Sandy along.
The DSO choir quickly became their week’s highlight and ‘something to look forward to’ every week. In fact, with Mike’s fetching suit and bow tie and Sandy’s party dress, it is clear to see that this is true.
"I wish the choir could be held every day," says Sandy and Mike nods in agreement. "It is very welcoming and feels like you are part of something special: a community."
Jeanette, who the met the pair through the choir agrees. She says, ‘Here you can come be yourself and live in the moment. It’s really uplifting’.
Barry, a young man and lover of music, after a stroke, found there was a ‘disconnect’ between him and music. He describes it as ‘like listening to a scratched CD. It just kept jumping about’. Since joining the choir, he has found that his enjoyment of music has been ‘unlocked’.
Not only that, but he feels his concentration has greatly improved and he thoroughly enjoys being around other music lovers.
Speaking to Judith, one of the charity’s trustees, about DSO’s aims and ambitions she simply wants to spread the choir’s message and extend its reach to as many people as possible. Through live streaming, they can now reach care home residents who otherwise would not have the ability to attend in person. In fact, the charity can arrange to help the care home set up the technology to allow this to happen. They are very keen to ensure that there are no barriers to allowing those with dementia to access the social and mental benefits of music and community.
Before they tucked into a scone and drank some much-needed tea, I asked Mike, Sandy and Jeanette for their advice to anyone who was unsure about joining the group:
‘Just come along. Don’t worry about not knowing anyone or being on your own. Everyone is so friendly here that you won’t be without friends for long. We just love it and you will too.’
DSO sessions are open to everyone. Whether you are a carer, run a care home or are just feeling lonely at home, this is a fantastic chance to meet other people and, to quote Jeanette, to ‘forget your worries’ for an hour.
The DSO choir meets every Thursday morning at 10.30 in Wellingborough’s Everyday Champions Centre.
Alternatively, if you cannot attend the group in person, you can engage with the DSO community online through their live streaming service or their Facebook group or by emailing directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also have a website which can be accessed here.
Finally, although belonging to the group is absolutely free, the choir does generate some costs, and, if you want to donate to this amazing charity and help them continue their inspiring, and very much appreciated work, you can do so here.
Stanair are delighted to support this initiative and we hope that this fantastic group will only grow and grow.
Pictured from top to bottom:
Sandy, Jeanette and Michael - DSO members
Pictures taken while the group are in action
Sheena Markham (Acting MD of Stanair and Lady Captain of the Wellingborough Golfclub) and Judith Chapman (One of the Charity Trustees)
Dementia Sings Out is the Lady Captain of the Wellingborough Golf Club's chosen charity and Stanair are delighted to be able to support her in promoting this local cause.
Tagged as: Dementia Sings Out
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