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The power of music in evoking memories

As a society, we're living longer, but often with an array of health conditions.

One of the most prominent conditions we come across in our work is dementia, and with the ageing population growing, so are the number of cases of dementia.

As a way of helping care for and support people with dementia, music has been shown to often have a dramatic effect.

Whether it's theme tunes from the TV, popular songs from youth, or in our case Hip Hop, music can make people feel relaxed,, stimulate them and bring to mind long-forgotten memories.

Research suggests that the different tones in soundscapes and music can reach and stimulate parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.

'We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life,' says Professor Paul Robertson, a concert violinist and academic who has made a study of music in dementia care.

'We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.'

Just from playing music in our sessions we hear all sorts of memories come to the surface for people, some of which they have not been able to recall for some time. People are often surprised that we elicit this response because we use Hip Hop music. Hip Hop started in the 1970's and was very much inspired by the jazz, soul, funk, reggae and disco music that came before it. Many Hip Hop songs are built using samples from other genres thus making it a surprisingly familiar style for older adults.

We've started to bring the wonderful Rihanna along to some of our sessions to share her beautiful gift for singing. The residents we work with have been loving this added element and sing along before telling us their wonderful stories and sharing their wisdom,

We work with fantastic charities such as playlist for life who are helping to spread awareness about the power of music and teach organisations how to implement tried and tested techniques to relight the neural pathways in the brain.


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