Monday, September 26, 2011

Live Music Now - Quality of Life

Live Music Now is a national charity in Britain that was founded by Yehudi Menuhin
32 years ago. It has two main aims; one is to take live music into the community
and the other is to develop professional musicians at the start of their careers.

The Quality of Life project looks at new ways of using music as a way to improve the
lives of those with dementia.

LIVE Music Now South West won a European funding bid, bringing much-needed cash to the region and hit national priorities to help people with dementia. The charity, based in Wellington, Somerset, teamed up with Reminiscence Learning and Abbeyfield Nursing Home to deliver a groundbreaking new project to older people in and around the county. They hope to widen the scheme throughout the West country. LMN SW has been providing a series of musical workshops at The Abbeyfield, Bishops Hull, Taunton , Somerset, with a wide variety of leading musicians from around the world agreeing to perform, including, James Sherlock, winner of the 2007 BBC Fame Academy: The Next Generation and vocalist and bassist Miranda Sykes from Show of Hands. With the help of Reminiscence Learning’s ‘Angels’ the project looked at new ways to engage those suffering from the illness through a range of reminiscence activities and a variety of music. “This will trigger and stimulate our long term memory and enable us to record individual stories,” said Fiona Mahoney, Chief Executive Reminiscence Learning. “It is really important to older people in the community as it gives them the opportunity to access high quality music outside of the concert hall. It has been proven to have positive impacts on mental health and wellbeing within residential homes.”

Reflection on "Live Music Now - Quality of Life"

Over the past three years, I have been spending time in a senior's residence north of Toronto, a unique classroom environment, learning to be a supportive caregiver to a parent who is struggling with all aspects of "getting old!" Dementia is a chronic and persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. My loved-one is living with the condition of dementia.

What struck me most about this short video was the reciprocal nature of benefits, for the elderly listening and humming along and for the live performer offering their gifts of song. It confirmed a lifelong belief that relationships are at the core of caring and in nurturing the health and wellbeing of the young and the older. Those working in the Arts have a role to play in the building and maintaining of healthy communities!

More specifically, my loved-one has often expressed a fear and anxiety about "getting old." With a sedentary lifestyle and a significant amount of time to contemplate while sitting alone in one's room, ample time for an elderly person's mind to turn inward can often lead to depression as one considers their plight of what lies ahead. Fear of falling, pain, dizziness and confusion cause the elderly to lose confidence in their abilities, to disengage from interactions with others, to stay put rather than to participate. Fear of dying tops the list! As my loved-one says, "We seem to lose someone every day."

Musical programs similar to Live Music Now offer the elderly an opportunity to face their fears or at least to put them away for a brief time. This video is evidence that Live Music Now brings people together, creating opportunities for the nurturing of relationships and in turn, improving the Quality of Life for each other. From the simplist of touch, the holding of hands, the beating of a drum, the singing of a standard, a turn and a look and a smile, a moment to be in the now - a safe place, a time for putting away one's fear of tomorrow. There is an old saying that rings true, "there is safety in numbers."


Chairat said...

I truly agree with you about the “reciprocal nature of benefits” in bringing live music to the community, and especially to the elderly. Last year, as part of the outreach program of the chamber music course, I had the opportunity to play at the Reuben Cipin Healthy Living Community, a condominium-style senior’s residence run by Baycrest. There were three of us, forming a piano trio. We gave an eclectic concert, with each of us first taking turns to play a solo piece, before finishing with Schubert’s first piano trio.

I remember well that the performance conditions were less than ideal. (The piano was a small, ancient upright and was horribly out of tune.) Nevertheless, I will always look back fondly on this performance, as I recall how I could feel that the audience listened with genuine interest, applauded each of us with such enthusiasm, and showed their appreciation by giving each of us a little bouquet of flowers. After the concert, some of the audience members approached us to thank us and asked us all sorts of questions about our musical background. I could tell that our music has given them happiness and made them want to sincerely connect with us as human beings. I found the experience immensely satisfying.

It is curious how one can sometimes lose sight of the most fundamental things, but this experience reminded me of the reason that I became a musician in the first place: to share my love and enjoyment of music with others.

Elizabeth said...

The project's aim to use a variety of music and "reminiscence activities" to connect with the people living at the Reminiscence Learning and Abbeyfield Nursing Home is something that I, too, have thought about more and more.

A few years ago, I took my Primary Choir to a local Nursing Home where we sang our own repertoire. And then we initiated a sing-a-long using songs that we hoped would bring back positive memories from the past. It was a powerful experience coming from different perspectives: teacher, student, Nursing home staff, and residents. If we compared the brain activity from each perspective during this experience, one would certainly hope that the results would enrich the notion of the powerful connection between music and mental health, music and emotion, and music and memory.

One of the lasting memories was seeing a few of our choir members, 6-8 years in age, interacting with a lovely 104 year old. The idea of "reciprocal nature of benefits" truly resonated in this experience.