HMT Sancta Maria Funds ‘Musical Memories’ Choir for Dementia Community in Swansea
HMT Sancta Maria hospital has hit the high notes with choir members, as it has announced full funding for the West Cross based Musical Memories Choir for the next three years, totalling ￡27,000.
A choir with a purpose, Musical Memories exists for people living with dementia in Swansea, and for the people who care for them. The group meets weekly, singing for an hour and socialising for the second hour.
Since the launch 2 years ago, the choir has grown from 6 to 60 members. The Choir is run by Helen Hunter, who is part of the team at the Red Cafe Community Project in Mumbles along with the wonderful Soprano Ros Evans. Helen had worked with people living with dementia for some time and knew there was a real need to bring people together locally to meet others in the same situation and share the ups and downs of life.
Helen comments: “Musical Memories aims to boost confidence, self esteem and quality of life by involving people with dementia and their carers in interactive singing sessions. We are so overwhelmed by the incredible donation from HMT Sancta Maria – it means we know we can continue providing this service for our members, many of whom tell us it has become a lifeline for them.
“Singing is like a muscle memory and draws on different parts of the brain, so even when everyday language is affected by dementia many people continue to sing, families have commented how wonderful it is to hear their loved ones voice agin in our sessions.”
Already a driving force for dementia research, last month the not-for-profit hospital announced it had invested over ￡1million into dementia research projects across the UK, working with various universities and the Alzheimer’s Society.
Stuart Hammond, HMT Sancta Maria Hospital Director comments: “Our brains are wired to connect music with long-term memory and so singing is an excellent way to go beyond the dementia and reach the person. As a not for profit organisation, our surplus is put towards medical research and supporting local community resources. Ensuring we can support people with dementia on our doorstep, such as the Musical Memories Choir attendees, is high on our agenda.
“We are delighted to be able to fund the choir for the next three years, it’s a vital resource to those living with dementia across Swansea.”
The Musical Memories choir sings a wide range of songs including classics from The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield and Abba as well as traditional Welsh songs and hymns, which hold strong associations for the group, comprising of members predominantly aged between 70 and 90. As well as singing, the group provides tea, cake, soup and time for socialising afterwards – an invaluable opportunity for attendees, many of whom have indicated that they often feel isolated due to their illness.
Stuart continues: “Research has shown that music can calm anxiety, stress and high levels of brain activity; it allows the listener to focus on the present moment. HMT Sancta Maria is passionate about supporting community projects is why we felt compelled to support the fantastic work that Helen and the Musical Memories choir is doing here in Swansea.”
Helen adds: “The choir is about the power of singing the songs that are the theme tune to our lives and connecting memories. It demonstrates that it is possible to live well with dementia and we hope to continue breaking the social stigma around dementia and old age.”
Dementiais an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases including Alzheimer's disease or a series of strokes.
Dementia can damage and kill brain cells, so that the brain cannot work as well as it should. This causes problems with memory, communication and thinking and also sometimes with activities such as handling money and dressing. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates there are in the region of 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia – and this figure is expected to grow to one million by 2021. In Swansea alone, there are estimated to be over 3,300 people living with dementia. More research and understanding is therefore needed to improve the lives of those living with the condition.
The Musical Memories choir takes place every Tuesday in Christwell Church, Manselton and every Friday at Linden Christian Centre in West Cross. Anyone with dementia, and their carers, can join in the sessions, which are from 11am to 1pm. for more information contact Helen Hunter at email@example.com