Music with Older People
We have just finished our latest project, Day Care Staff Training programme, with Age Concern Buckinghamshire. We have worked with 6 centres, running participatory sessions for the clients. 118 clients took part in the programme and feedback from the staff on the benefits for the clients included: bringing back fond memories; confidence boosting; keeping them and their minds active and alive for a longer period; getting some of the more reluctant / less sociable members to join in.
There were a few comments which demonstrated why this work is valuable:
-One disabled gentleman who does not participate was very engaged by the 'fish' percussion (wooden) instrument. Unbeknown to Arne, this gentleman was a keen fisherman and a carpenter by trade, prior to his strokes. To be given the fish to play could not have been better. He surprised me by joining in with his good arm whilst I held the instrument.
-The Owl and the Pussycat had everyone of our clients participating which was an achievement
-Two clients will never engage in any suggested activity, but after encouragement played various musical instruments
-One always moaning about everything until this started.
-Just lovely to see faces light up as music was played by Arne and Isabel or as their chosen music was played
14 volunteers took part in the project, with an additional 22 observing the sessions. The participants saw new tools and techniques and had the opportunity to reflect on their observations and discuss how to apply some of the ideas in their own centres. The programme ended with all participating staff came together for a training sessions led by ARne and Isabel. This session included discussion on relationships with music; short lectures on sound and the 'families' of instruments; techniques such as developing a sequence of words and sounds for performance, developing a sequence of words and movements, sounds to a known poem for performance, and creative ways to use instruments to engage clients on a one-to-one basis and in groups.
The volunteers said that the benefits for them included: new ideas on how to help our clients to lead as normal a life as possible; seeing the clients in a different light and enjoying a new experience; and understanding how music benefits older people.
The method of delivery of this project has proved very successful with it generating many positive comments from the participants. It has opened up lots of possibilities for staff and volunteers to deliver music based projects to their clients, either using the techniques directly taught by OCP or adapting them.
We have just completed a week long prison project which was described by Lucy Hare, our bassist, as "a wonderful week, one of our best ever". This was in part because of the support we received from the prison regime, but mainly from the openness and willingness of the inmates to throw themselves into the work. We got some great feedback from them, including:
- "I wasn't going to come but Peter told me to go up, no excuses. So glad he collared me. I ordered a harmonica this morning."
- "Wasn't supposed to be here, not in my comfort zone at all. I didn't understand how music fits together, but I understand better now."
- "I didn't have a musical bone in my body but now my little toe is musical. Good to see how it is created, how we can produce something that wasn't there. Each session it evolves. Doing my poetry to music is an opportunity I never thought I'd have. Never done owt to music" - "It is a privilege to watch/play with the OCP, to create something from nothing and with basic instruments."
- "Never used to try different things. Never heard proper instruments. I noticed Pete was lifted by doing his piano piece, noticed it in his voice."
- "I've been brought out of my shell, never sung before. Want to do more."
The Chaplain, Revd Peter Browne, said:
"I think the impromptu concert on the exercise yard at lunch-time was sublime. I know that the final concert was a triumph and that all who attended the workshops throughout the week have been elevated in mood and motivation."
Read more feedback on the project here.
The Baring Foundation
We are absolutely delighted to announce that we have just been awarded £30,000 from The Baring Foundation to run three participatory projects in rural areas. The Baring Foundation has a very strong commitment to the importance of participatory art work with older people and has produced an excellent publication, Ageing Artfully, on key work in this area which includes the Oxford Concert Party.
Over 2 years, we will deliver 3 different but related projects to make participatory work with older people accessible to day centres in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. We will deliver 1 of each project in each county.
Project One: Day Care Staff Training programme - a 12 week programme of workshops which provides training for day care staff from 6 centres. The training programme will be delivered through working with clients, so will also provide interactive and meaningful activities to them.
Project Two: Food for Thought - a 6 week interactive project with 6 centres which will engage participants in a rich variety of high-quality arts experiences (music, drama, art, dance, etc) based around the theme of food.
Project Three: Concert / workshop programme - an interactive 7 week project for up to 6 centres begun with a concert by the full OCP (6 musicians) followed by 6 weekly workshops with 2 OCP musicians working with the clients using music, songs and poetry to stimulate memory, engage and interact with them and encourage communication within the group.
The older people with whom we will work are living in rural communities and the centres are often the only social life and access to arts that they have. Many also have concerns about mental health issues, with a desire to prevent and / or delay the onset of memory problems. Each project is interactive, based around the concept best summed up by Confucius: "Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand."
The Day Care staff training project will create a cohort of people who can deliver future projects. Other projects will introduce new tools to other day centres. As a result of our work, we want to see 400 isolated older people attending a live music performance in rurally isolated areas and actively participating in arts activity and a minimum of 30 day care staff receiving intensive and supported training in delivering music projects.
The Baring Foundation grant will fund the programme for a year and we are working on getting funding for the second year.