Norwich Theater music therapy helps people with dementia

08:45 1 October 2022

Music can improve the well-being of people with dementia and can be a positive experience shared between loved ones.

Theater Cares – A Life in Music is a new participatory program for people with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers. The Norwich Theater provides a safe space where people can enjoy fun activities led by experienced practitioners.

After being welcomed to the theater with teas, coffees and cookies, participants and caregivers will be guided through each activity by music therapist Tessa Wingate.

She said: “People with dementia can seem to be locked inside themselves. But when they’re involved in a musical experience, I’ve seen countless times that they relax and become communicative and outgoing.”

With a different focus each week, participants can learn about drums, chimes, harp, hammered dulcimer, and various string and percussion instruments, as well as explore singing and songwriting across different genres , including folk and blues.

All workshops are relaxed and run at a leisurely pace. Participants will be able to participate in whatever way they are comfortable or able, and no previous musical experience is necessary. Music workshops will take place fortnightly.

Caregivers are encouraged to come to make sure everyone feels as relaxed as possible in a new environment. It is also hoped that the shared experience will strengthen the bond between the person with dementia and their caregiver.

The project is a collaboration between Musical Keys and Norwich Theatre.

Program Manager at Musical Keys, Oliver Payne, said: “Music is unique in its power to evoke both memories and emotions, which can provide an important link to an individual’s past and a way non-verbal communication with family and caregivers.

“With a growing population of older people with dementia, we believe there is a need to provide meaningful and accessible community-based creative activities – and we are delighted to be working with Norwich Theater to do this.”

Elspeth Hunter, Creative Engagement Project Manager at Norwich Theater
– Credit: Alex Rimell

Elspeth Hunter, Creative Engagement Project Manager at Norwich Theatre, said: “We believe that theater has the power to support positive change, improve people’s well-being and generate prosperity for our city, our region and our sector.

“A Life in Music prioritizes fun, escape and nurturing the relationship between carers and people with dementia. By providing opportunities outside of clinical settings, Norwich Theater hopes to provide an experience alternative that brings participants and caregivers together to share experiences and support each other.”

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