It is anticipated that there will be one million people living with dementia in the UK by 2021 ¹. Music is a powerful connector and has the ability to bring people together in the here and now. It can enliven, stimulate and enable people living with dementia to express themselves creatively through musical engagement.
Research has shown and lived experiences demonstrate that music has the ability to help reduce the often-distressing symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, apathy and anxiety.
Music supports people living with dementia to communicate beyond words, helping them to connect with others. It supports emotional health and wellbeing, particularly at a time when emotions can be overwhelming or difficult to process or manage. It has a valuable role to play in enhancing quality of life and supporting carers in their vital roles.
When delivered effectively, music provides a way to be with and stay connected with loved ones and carers through shared experiences.
“Music imprints itself in the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring memory. Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” Dr. Oliver Sacks
Sadly not everyone living with dementia has access to music and this has to change.
Music for Dementia – The Campaign
Music for Dementia is a national campaign to make music available for everyone living with dementia. Led by The Utley Foundation, the campaign is a direct and positive response to the Commission report on Dementia and Music. (See section below for more information about the report).
The recommendations in the report are a call to action for all. The Utley Foundation is leading the way by creating a national taskforce of stakeholders from across the music, dementia, health, social and care sectors, from people living with dementia through to MPs, to help improve the quality of life for people living with dementia through music by making it readily available and accessible.
The campaign has a clear vision:
We want to:
- Have the support of the music, social, health, and care sectors in making music readily available for people living with dementia.
- Create a collective understanding across society that music is a necessity for people living with dementia and they need access to it now.
When we talk about music being readily available, we are talking about the whole spectrum of music, from understanding how to create the right environments in care settings through appropriate use of the radio through to active participation in live music making, playlists, listening to performances, using music to enhance and enrich care, and music therapy. People should and need to be able to make choices about what types of musical activities are best for them. This campaign wants to make sure that choice is available to you wherever you live across the UK, and that you have access to high quality musical activities, from the best in the latest music technology to evidence based music therapy.
There is excellent work taking place across the country which some have access to but not all. We want to make sure that everyone has access to music, and at the moment we know that isn’t happening. To do that, we must come together, share the message ‘for people living with dementia, music isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity’, and help people across society to understand that music truly can and does improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. We can achieve this by working together, promoting and supporting each other’s work, sharing skills and knowledge and by speaking with a united voice.
We are a musical nation and through this campaign, we can unite to make music readily available for everyone living with dementia.
Following a sector wide Commission into Dementia and Music, conducted by the International Longevity Centre – UK, funded by The Utley Foundation, people living with dementia, senior academics, politicians, researchers, practitioners, and industry leaders were brought together to discuss how we can be more effective in meeting the challenge of dementia through music. The views of almost 1,500 stakeholders across the dementia care and music sectors were solicited and directly informed the report.
The findings of the report, launched in the House of Lords in January 2018, clarifies the gaps, needs and powerfully strengthens the case for bringing music for dementia further into the public forum so that this vital work can be scaled and grown.
The value and power of music for people with dementia is clear, so spread the word and let’s work together to meet the challenge of dementia through music.