Each week the residents at Sydney’s Twilight Aged Care home in Glades Bay look forward to singing and dancing like no one is watching when Moove & Groove silent discos hustle into town.
The brainchild of founder and CEO Alison Harrington, the company runs group therapy sessions called ACTIVE, where each resident has an individual wireless set of headphones playing songs from the curated playlist of the instructor, who the runs the group through a set of dances and movements.
“The idea came about four years ago when I saw some silent disco happening and I thought ‘I love dancing and having fun’, so I was immediately drawn to that. But I was also studying social impact at university and wanted to make a difference in the world,” said Harrington.
Initially started as a business holding silent discos for fundraising events, Moove & Groove then took a left turn into hen’s parties.
“They were ending these hen’s parties on a delirious high and burning about 300 calories.”
While at uni, Harrington was given an assignment to look into the issues facing older Australians, which led to Moove & Groove in its current form.
“We had to come up with a novel and fake idea to improve mental and physical health outcomes. I didn’t need a fake idea, because I had a real idea – to use my silent discos in aged care.”
One government grant and a pilot program later, Moove & Groove now works with 30 aged care facilities.
They run two other programs alongside ACTIVE. Their dementia program takes parts of ACTIVE together with parts of the new LISTEN program and was developed in consultation with dementia experts.
The LISTEN program is a custom website giving facilities access to curated reminiscent-based listening content. This is then used in group settings through the wireless headphone technology provided by Moove & Groove and facilitated by aged care staff.
“The impact of this is to create meaningful connections between staff and residents, residents and residents, and enables volunteers to engage with residents easily creating interesting conversations after listening,” said Moove & Groove general manager Kate Sowden.
“We find that after a listening experience the participants go away and talk to each other with a common bond.
“Having many options of interests on this platform means staff can provide person-centred options depending on their particular interests. Perhaps Murray only likes to listen to science, and Yvonne loves classical music – this can be provided throughout the day to give each person an activity personalised to their specific interests.”
Sowden also believes the bond formed between the instructors and residents is instrumental, knowing their music interests and about them as people encourages the residents to respond in class and in turn leads to a positive impact on their health.
In the end, it is the difference staff and families see in residents who take part in the silent discos that makes the program worthwhile.
“One day in the class one of the ladies had a husband who was [living with] moderate dementia and used to just sit at the back of the class,” said Harrington.
“We said, ‘Hey put the headphones on him, he can join in’. And I’ll never forget this moment, he spent the whole class totally engaged and she came up to us and said, ‘It feels like I have my husband back for an hour.’”
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