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Music therapy trial to ignite ‘reminiscence bump’ for those with dementia

University of Melbourne researchers will work with aged care residents and their carers to undertake the world’s largest music therapy trial, with a focus on depression among those with dementia.

Head of music therapy Felicity Baker said the power of this type of therapy can stimulate the recall of memories associated with happy times, known as the reminiscence bump.

“Music is connected to memories, which is how the residents are able to sing along to the lyrics and, in some cases, start moving when music begins,” Baker said.

“These memories might include a first love, a wedding, a graduation or any key milestones from their life. Music can really help promote a sense of identity, a sense of self-esteem.”

The three-year study started at Bupa’s Berwick and Greensborough homes and will extend to an additional eight Bupa homes and involve 500 participants from 38 other aged care homes across Australia. An additional 1000 participants will be recruited from five countries in Europe.

“Those involved in the Music Interventions for Depression and Dementia in the Elderly (MIDDEL) study will receive group music therapy, recreational choir singing, a combination of both group and choir therapy or their usual in-home care,” she said

Trevor Heydon, whose mother Josie is participating at the Greensborough home, said he has already seen changes in her levels of interaction.

“I’ve sat in on some of the sessions and I can tell it has improved her mood. She is opening herself up and getting around more instead of just sitting in the room,” Heydon said.

The project has been funded by a $1 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Baker joins us to provide more insight about the program.

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2 comments

  1. Great, And if it could include exercises, especially strength and balance, even better

  2. 4MBs Silver Memories from 4MBs Queensland already broad casts music from the 40s, 50s and 60s 24 hrs a day and is played in many care homes. If you go to their web site you can read about the benefits of listening to this music without doing yet another study. What is needed is funds to provide this service to all care homes and those still living in their own home.