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Music and Memory

Lucy Macourt with violin

Dementia affects almost half a million Australians. The disease is characterised by cognitive impairment, memory loss and impaired judgement and attention. The part of the brain responsible for music is often one of the last to be adversely affected.

Research into the benefits of music for people living with dementia is ongoing. However, present efforts are largely focused on individual listening to recorded music, or general ‘music for relaxation’ concerts.

While these approaches have much to offer, there are also limitations. For some, listening through headphones or earbuds presents a technological barrier, or simply isn’t as enjoyable as a live experience. From a social perspective, these approaches sit on opposite ends of a spectrum: individualised listening on one end, without social interaction, and a highly generalised experience on the other end.

Music and Memory will seek a balance between these two approaches by delivering a social concert experience informed by the collective musical preferences of participants. Delivered in partnership with Goodwin Aged Care Services and ActewAGL, the pilot will attempt to measure positive behavioural changes linked to concert experiences over the program’s eight-week duration for a study group at Goodwin House in Ainslie. Design, programming and presentation of the bi-weekly concerts will be informed by participants’ musical preferences as identified through pre-concert questionnaires.

The unique program was developed in collaboration with Heather Roche, a musician and third-year Bachelor of Psychology student at the University of Canberra, with oversight from Kristen Sutcliffe, CSO bassoonist and practising audiologist. “This remarkable program is designed to touch the hearts and minds of people living with dementia, through specifically chosen music,” says Sutcliffe, who also curates and presents the CSO’s leading Rediscovering Music program for people who have experienced hearing loss.

Goodwin Aged Care Services will support the pilot delivery, including hosting concerts, providing care supports to participants, administration, behavioural research and management of ethical considerations.

CSO Community Programs are supported by the ACT Government.

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