Music Brings Back Memories

The sound of Frank Sinatra’s Fly me to the Moon recalls another time, stirring memories for a roomful of people singing along.

It’s Tuesday morning and a music therapy session is in full swing at The Haven Day Centre in Boronia, a not-for-profit charity for those with dementia still living independently at home or with a carer.

Archie, who used to play guitar in a jazz band in the city, has requested the song and the group joins in enthusiastically.

Council has provided funding for the seven-week program, culminating in a concert for family and carers, which is led by music therapist Ajay on guitar.

“When a person has dementia, the last part of the brain to atrophy is one of the parts where music lives,” Ajay says. “Memories also live in the same place. So, we can access memories and music when a lot of other faculties may be reduced. One of the benefits of the use of music is the release of emotions and quality of life.”

Lucia asks for the song she’s named after, Santa Lucia, before taking the spotlight to sing the track in her native Italian.

Nick, who hails from New Zealand, requests traditional Maori love song, Pokarekare Ana.

“I like Maori songs because they remind me of New Zealand,” he says. “It’s a lovely place. We actually bought 40 acres on an island off the coast of Auckland, Great Barrier Island. With these sessions, it makes a difference here. Basically we’re more lively.”

Carol requests Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond while her friend Kay enjoys a rendition of Wooden Heart by Elvis.

“We talk amongst ourselves,” Carol says. “We’ve all got different problems and it doesn’t seem to matter. Music is universal. We enjoy the company and have a common cause.”

Centre coordinator Kathy Miller says the program wouldn’t have been possible without Council support.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to explore music with our memory loss and dementia groups that we otherwise would not have been able to enjoy,” she says. “Music is so inclusive and engaging, whether it’s toe tapping, shaking a tambourine, banging a drum, singing a tune or dancing. It’s so nice to see their smiling faces. Moods have been boosted and often the singing extends right throughout the day.”

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Council has partnered with Dementia Australia to become a more dementia friendly community.

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