The Open University in Wales hosted an event following the BBC/OU co-production ‘Our Dementia Choir’ that aired earlier this year. The two-part series, hosted by BAFTA award-winning actor, Vicky McClure, followed a group of individuals who explored the true extent of music’s power in the fight against dementia.
The OU partnered up with the Alzheimer’s Society Cymru to bring the inspirational documentary to life at Cornerstone Cardiff. The OpenTalk event, 'Music for Dementia' put a festive spin on the series in the lead up to Christmas.
Using exclusive clips from the documentary, Dr Geraldine Boyle and Dr Terence Curran from the OU spoke about their involvement in the series and discussed the research behind, and benefits of, music for the well-being of those living with dementia.
The audience then heard from Cheryl George from Dementia Friends who shared five key messages about dementia. She gave advice on how to become a Dementia Friend by learning more about dementia and helping local communities.
Beside me there is a bookcase filled with books. Each shelf represents a memory or skill I have gained over my lifetime. On the top shelf are my most recent memories, like how I got here or what your name is. The bottom shelf are my long-term memories from decades ago. Imagine the bookcase is hit by dementia and starts to rock. Which books will fall first? The top shelf, my short-term memory.Cheryl George, Dementia Friends
Sue Phelps MBE, Country Director for the Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, spoke about the transformative power of group music sessions for those living with dementia.
‘A gentleman came [to the group session] with his wife.’ she explained. ‘He had very little ability to communicate as a result of his dementia. This was something his wife struggled with in particular because they could no longer have a conversation at home. He refused to join in for the first half hour and told his wife he wanted to leave. However, when the choir began the song, Singing in the Rain, he grabbed an umbrella and started dancing around the room, singing every single word.’
The event ended with a moving finale from four Singing for the Brain groups from across south Wales (Aberdare, Cardiff, Pontyclun and Porth). All group members had first-hand experience of how music can help symptoms of dementia, either having dementia themselves or caring for a loved one with the illness.
The groups and their leaders sang Christmas carols and encouraged the audience to join in. One of the carols, ‘Silent Night’, featured a solo performance from a gentleman with dementia who could still remember how to play songs on the harmonica off by heart. To round off the evening, the groups, leaders, speakers and audience came together to share mulled wine and mince pies.
A perfect end to our last OpenTalk of the year. Singing from the Brain groups from around South Wales join together to treat us to a festive performance. pic.twitter.com/0CJ8WwR7Kl— The OU in Wales (@OUCymru) December 2, 2019
‘I’m doing my dissertation on music therapy and social wellbeing on patients with dementia.’ said Cari Lang, a 4th year music student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. ‘I found the session fascinating. It was useful to hear the speaker’s take on the psychology of music, and to find out more from the Alzheimer’s Society. It was then so wholesome to watch the singing groups and witness the sheer power of music.’
The OpenTalks series of public events are part of the OU’s 50th anniversary. 2019 is also the Alzheimer’s Society’s 40th anniversary.
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