Dementia patients’ lives transformed through music tech pilot program
Researchers from Western Sydney University have collaborated with aged-care services provider Fresh Hope Care and I’m Soul Inc to develop a music project to improve quality of life for dementia patients.
The 12-month pilot program, to be held initially at Ashwood Aged Care Services’ Pendle Hill site, will provide elderly residents with the opportunity to participate in exercises as well as learn a musical instrument.
Funding for the music project was provided by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services to assist with investigating the benefits of interactive music making in aged care.
Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development will assist across the year-long project by collecting observational data of residents’ engagement with the music technology, and of health outcomes, alongside numerical data related to the use of the music technology.
Research Theme Fellow - Health and Wellbeing, Dr Jennifer MacRitchie from the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University, said a system like this could improve the quality of life for the residents.
According to neuroscience research, music making is one of the few activities that stimulates and uses the entire brain. It also helps to increase the growth of new brain cells, which is critical for enhancing positivity and for rehabilitation of disorders such as strokes and dementia.
Fresh Hope Care Executive Director Natalie Cook says the Pendle Hill pilot is the first in a series of innovations and would benefit all of Fresh Hope Care’s residents as the organisation explores different ways to engage with residents.
“We are on a journey to stretch ourselves to deliver things that were once thought improbable,” said Ms Cook.
I’m Soul Inc Founder and CEO Michelle Lee established the program from her Singapore base and is excited about the collaboration with Fresh Hope Care and Western Sydney University, which she said will have many positive outcomes.
“These music programs are designed to help anyone to make music, which magnifies the therapeutic impact of music, far beyond just listening. You forget what you ‘can’t do’. It rewires the brain,” said Ms Lee.
“The ability to make music can also benefit those with physical and learning disabilities, those suffering from Alzheimer’s, as well as people with hearing and visual impairments. Many of them cannot make music the conventional way – they cannot hold an instrument or read the notes. We enable and include them to make music through technology and our programs. The access is enriching and empowering with its positive effects spilling over to the caregivers.”
MARCS Lifespan Labs will offer a bright future within and well beyond its new home in the centre of Western Sydney’s health precinct at Westmead.
Opinion: Australian universities need to be more age-friendly — what does that look like in practice?
Longevity and healthy ageing programs worldwide have embraced the slogan “adding life to years”. Ageing well is driven by a combination of factors, including lifelong education and civic participation.
Western Sydney University and other universities have been working closely and constructively with Study NSW, the state and federal governments for over 12 months to facilitate the safe return of international students to Australia.