Digital Music-making – practice and recommendations

April 27, 2021

Our Director, Grace Meadows, has co-published an insightful community case study about digital approaches to music making with people living with dementia during the pandemic in the UK.

An overview of the present landscape, it covers current opportunities for digital music making and assesses the barriers and facilitators to their delivery.

Digital approaches to music-making for people with dementia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: current practice and recommendations is published in in Frontiers in Psychology. It has contributions from 11 people and organisations in the UK involved in the sector.

An impressive range of relevant online activities are portrayed, from singing sessions to choirs, interactive music making to musical performances. Music practitioners have reviewed the findings and shared their own experiences in hosting virtual sessions. This website was selected as the basis for searches as it provides the most comprehensive overview of musical activities for people with dementia.

Challenges and solutions

The study took an in-depth look at technological challenges and solutions, including: internet connectivity, sound quality, accessibility, digital accessibility and financial barriers. Thought-provoking anecdotes include the fact that some musical leaders found care home residents struggled to focus attention on a TV screen or tablet computer where there were competing sensory stimuli in the room.

The involvement of care home staff to engage participants in the session is crucial to its uptake —although this was difficult during the height of the pandemic when many care homes were severely overstretched and short-staffed.

Other discoveries included the need to build capacity for online interventions amongst care personnel, however potential advantages over in-person sessions are also highlighted.

Creativity and resilience

The case study concludes:

“It will be some time before we have an accurate picture of how people with dementia have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Until a widespread programme of vaccination is implemented, it is likely that restrictions on group gatherings and shielding recommendations will continue.

“In the face of these challenges, the creativity and resilience demonstrated by arts organisations and practitioners as well as by people with dementia and their carers is heartening and inspiring. The digital developments of the pandemic may have wide-reaching implications for practice in a post-pandemic world, as their advantages become recognised.

“Virtual sessions may be attended by those who would not previously have the opportunity: people who live in geographically remote locations, those underserved by public transport, carers with multiple caring responsibilities, and people who have physical disabilities or mental health conditions which make it difficult to travel may all prefer to attend an online session.

Positive carry-over

“Furthermore, online sessions enable geographically separate groups and individuals to log on and spend time together. In addition, motivation to discover and use new technology for music making may have a positive carry-over effect to other areas of life. We hope that the recommendations outlined here will be relevant and helpful for musicians and dementia care providers to adapt to practice during the pandemic and beyond.”

Best practice recommendations for groups delivering sessions are made at the end of the case study, which include points on:

  • making any sessions as widely accessible as possible
  • wellbeing and safety
  • quality control and
  • sustainable practice.