It’s not all Vera Lynn, we want raps, choirs and singing groups.
IMM – Bridging the age gap with music
The Music for Dementia 2020 team were delighted to meet Charlotte Miller, a trained music therapist, who has over twenty years of experience working within schools, hospitals and care settings across South London.
Charlotte is the founder of Intergenerational Music Making (IMM), a wonderful charity that brings together children of all ages with older people in care settings to create music therapy projects. Their aim is to bring about positive social change for local communities by improving wellbeing, mental health, tackling loneliness, and helping integrate young and old communities.
IMM session with Ethan conducting the groups music making
Charlotte’s music therapy projects usually involve a group of children, often with difficult backgrounds or with special needs, and connecting them with various care settings. The groups meet each week for 6 weeks, for about an hour. The sessions include children of all ages who meet with the residents, many with dementia, to make music together.
Each session includes a variety of pre-composed and improvised music making. They are interactive, and use musical and sensory activities, with children and elders writing songs together and giving musical performances. The sessions always end with a period of sharing stories, asking questions and generally getting to know each other.
What struck the M4D2020 team, when listening to Charlotte, was that these two seemingly different groups, have very similar emotional needs and the music connects them in a therapeutic way, enabling them both to experience and express themselves creatively, and fundamentally, a sense of togetherness. This must be a good thing!
Don’t believe us?
- A lady called Anne walked across to the group of children and helped them to ring some bells. Anne, lives with dementia, doesn’t have any language and her carers have never seen her walk until this first music therapy session!
- Michael aged 82, lives with dementia, has severe depression, was acutely lonely and rarely spoke. His new best friend is Rory aged 7. Michael waits for hours for Rory to arrive and they sit together each week laughing, joking and making lots of musical noise!
- This is Colin – he is blind and during a conducted “start and stop” song, the children gently tap his arm to help with the musical cues. Look how happy Colin looks!
By playing, listening and making music together the sessions build confidence, improve self-esteem and minimise the distressing symptoms of dementia, such as agitation and apathy, both during and after. For that one hour they allow both groups to live in the moment and enjoy being connected with each other.
And don’t be fooled into thinking these sessions are about just listening to Vera Lynn. They have produced an impressive care home rap (with the children saying the words and the elders creating the rhythm) choirs have been formed, singing groups meet and songs from across the age range are sung.
Some of these children never knew their own grandparents, so the IMM sessions provide them with a chance to experience that kinship you sometimes only get when talking to someone who has lived a long and colorful life!
A picture taken from an SEN/Dementia IMM session – music connects people – it doesn’t see disability – it reaches into people and draws out their potential to communicate and be with others.
It’s a win win!
We were also pleased to hear that not only have the emotional needs of the children improved, their work life opportunities have also been enhanced as the care homes often offer the children work experience places. This allows the children to gain the high level of skills needed to work in a health setting. Often the wonderful care home staff also take the residents to visit the children’s schools, which gives the people living with dementia the chance to experience that much needed outside environment.
IMM, the children and all the care homes involved you are doing an amazing job of using music to connect with each other. The M4D2020 team take their musical hats off to you all! Well done to everyone involved.
If your school or care home would like to take part in an intergenerational project. Or if you are in the fortunate position to be able to help fund IMM please visit www.imm-music.com