case study: singing for memory
Group members tell us what it means to come back to The Point
Our Singing for Memory group usually runs on Monday afternoons at The Point, home of darts. We use the power of song, friendship, tea and conversation to connect people with dementia and their carers with others. The group provides a regular, safe space for people to have fun, sing familiar songs and create new ones. Professional musicians facilitate the sessions; their expert approach is different to other dementia services because of their person-centred and flexible approach and sessions are designed to gently challenge participants.
Since March 2020, we have had to change our opportunities dramatically to respond to lockdowns, Covid-19 and the needs of our participants. Online sessions, Garden Gigs, phonecalls, home visits, newsletters and CDs have all been available to group members and have been well received. In May 2021, we began running small, socially distanced sessions at The Point.
Trevor has been one of our longest-serving Singing for Memory group members. He began attending towards the beginning of the project and has been a regular participant ever since. He says:
“I’ve always been interested in listening to music but I didn’t realise until late on in life that there was no reason why I shouldn’t join a choir – so I do belong to a community choir now and I get a lot out of it. I joined the community choir since joining Singing for Memory.”
We asked him if he would have joined the community choir if he hadn’t been attending Singing for Memory. He said:
“No! I didn’t realise that I have a reasonably good voice, at least, I don’t sing out of tune. I didn’t know until I started coming to Singing for Memory that I could get by in a proper choir. I can sing harmonies if on form.”
Trevor told us why he started coming to Singing for Memory and then why he continues to attend:
“I enjoy singing – it takes me out of myself, I lose my inhibitions, I gain confidence through it, and I think just singing is uplifting, even if nothing happens, when I leave the building I feel much better than when I first came in.”
But it’s not only the singing, with living on my own, it’s also - it gets me out of the house, and I’m amongst people, and we have a chat. I always feel much better. I sing to myself at home, but it’s very unstructured. Because I can’t remember words I have to make up words so I just do ‘la la la’! Whereas with here, we’re given the words, it has more structure and of course it’s a big group, well it was before Covid, and it’s nice, you feel part of a team effort.
We asked Trevor how he feels after a session and the impact longer term:
“I feel uplifted – it changes my mood – I feel in a lighter mood. Not only am I coming to a singing session, but I then go into town afterwards. I might meet people I know and have a chat, almost certainly I’ll bump into people I know. It’s good to get me out of the house, it motivates me, because I have had times when I just can’t be bothered to get up, you know I might stay in bed most of the day, especially in Winter.”
Trevor told us that he does find some elements more difficult:
“Sometimes we write our own song lyrics, I find that the hardest part of it and I would have thought that the people who have very serious dementia might find that they got lost in an activity like that.”
Trevor told us what he would you tell someone who was thinking of joining Singing for Memory:
“I’d tell them that they have nothing to be afraid of and that they’ll almost certainly enjoy themselves here. They might find hidden talents as I did! If the sessions stopped it would diminish my social network. When we had the first lockdown, I was really struggling mentally. I went out on my bike and for walks but I lost nearly all my social contact. That was a very bad time for me.”
Tom and Lisa*
For Tom and Lisa, music has always been a major part of their lives. Lisa sang with the Doncaster Ladies Choir and she sang in the church choir, which Tom organised. Tom also played in bands for 30 years. They told us:
“When lockdown happened I was really sad when I had to leave the choir, I missed it terribly”
When they were able to start coming to Singing for Memory at The Point, Lisa said:
“Even though it’s only an hour, this has been a delight to come to and enjoy. It relaxes you and it’s a joy to meet other people – it’s just lovely.”
“Yes, and that rubs off in the home.”
We asked what it meant to them to come to sessions at The Point. Tom said:
“Oh, it’s fantastic!”
and Lisa said:
“I know that Tom enjoys coming, and it’s a happy release to break the week up and come and meet people. Because all our children have left home, we’re on our own – it’s quite nice.”
Lisa told us how important attending Singing for Memory is:
“It’s a lifesaver. For me, it’s a lifesaver.”
We asked Tom what he would say to anyone interested in coming to Singing for Memory: “I’d encourage them to come down here with me!”
Thanks to our wonderful participants for sharing their thoughts with us.
*Names have been changed