Musical breakthrough in dementia project

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Lancaster University researchers recently discovered that creative activities, such as creating musical instruments, can greatly increase the quality of life for people who are living with dementia, as part of a research project aptly named ‘Ageing Playfully’.

Through a number of creative workshops, the project also found that activities that stimulate multisensory experiences and encourage exercise increase social inclusion which allows dementia sufferers to have an improved standard of living.

The project was designed, instigated and funded by The Creative Exchange, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Knowledge Exchange Hub.

The first stage of the project was set out in the form of a series of workshops which aimed to get dementia sufferers to engage in a creative, physical and social manner. The workshops were integrated into an already existing weekly drop-in, run by Age UK as part of the ‘circle of support’ initiative.

The workshops began with a focus on the outdoors, dancing and singing but during the initial workshops it was evident that music was one of the most popular themes. There were 12 willing participants involved in the final workshop, along with one carer and two support workers.

The final workshop allowed the volunteers to co-design 2D collages and 3D models.

After each of the workshops the participants were given a postcode image of their designs and models in order to remind them of their previous engagement in the project.

The leader of the project was Senior Lecturer in Design Interactions at Lancaster University Dr Emmanuel Tsekleves. Tsekleves said: “Participants as co-designers expressed enjoyment and enthusiasm, when given this opportunity to engage playfully with each other in imagining and building models. Their carers and support workers noted how the workshop activities seemed to encourage interaction, with even the reticent, less confident members of the group joining in with the model building.

“Furthermore, carers and Age UK support staff reported that workshop participants retained the positive feelings even whilst at home and each time they arrived at the workshop associated these positive feelings with the workshop facilitators.”

The project acknowledged the need for more innovative and creative events to allow dementia sufferers to feel more comfortable in social situations and also allowed initial research into creative solutions.

The next phase of the project will involve further development using the workshop models to explore possible digital-physical technologies that could assist in the progression of the care of dementia sufferers.

Lancaster University academics will continue to be part of the research in the future.

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