The gift of music

The Rotaract Club of Canberra, ACT, has been providing headsets to aged care facilities in Canberra to increase access to music for those living with dementia. The program, Music for Dementia, provides the training and infrastructure to the facilities, and as a result the quality of life of participants has improved drastically.

Each person is given a personalised headset, with a playlist loaded with songs chosen by their family. The aim is for the songs to stimulate memory, calm the mind, and spark conversation.

The 20 club members created instruction videos and handouts to explain the project.

Club Treasurer Linnea Eriksson is an acoustic engineer.

“We want to improve people’s quality of life,” she explained. “With the feedback we’ve already received regarding the joy and serenity it has brought we can’t wait to carry the work forward as a club.”

The aged care facility staff have also reported the profound impact the project has had. Recipients of the headsets supplied through Music for Dementia were visibly calmer after using them. Families have also observed a positive change in the demeanour of their family member.

Diane Du Toit’s mother, Maureen Du Toit (pictured), is a resident at Goodwin Aged Care Canberra and has had an amazing connection to the activity. Maureen was also a Rotary member back home in South Africa.

“I chose some of her favourite songs and as soon as Mum put the headphones on, she closed her eyes and was swept away by the music,” Diane said. “It brought tears to my eyes to see my mum excited, smiling, moving her arms in time with the music and coming alive.”

The project has also been important for club members who have been personally impacted by family members or loved ones with dementia. The project was an opportunity for club members to engage in a project and stay connected with Rotaract at a time when COVID-19 was having a significant impact on their lives.