How 90s anthem ‘All Together Now’ helped people who couldn’t speak learn to sing again

An innovative project from The Brain Charity has helped people living with dementia, who couldn’t talk, re-learn how to sing, using a popular anthem from Liverpool band The Farm! Now the project is going virtual across the country.

Hundreds of care home residents across Merseyside have seen amazing results from The Brain Charity’s ground-breaking Music Makes Us! project, which combines singing and dance lessons with speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.

Music is known to activate different pathways to speech in the brain, and not only stimulates endorphins but can transport people living with dementia to happy moments in their pasts.

As well as seeing participants who couldn’t talk begin to sing to The Farm’s ‘All Together Now’, others with severe mobility problems began to dance to The Beatles.

Now The Brain Charity, a national charity headquartered in Liverpool, has launched the unique resource as a free 12-week online video programme, so that it can be accessed by anyone in the world.

Kym Ward, Dementia Project Coordinator at The Brain Charity, said: “We understand the past year has been especially tough for people living with dementia. We also know music can play a vital role in their daily care – it stirs memories and reduces agitation. That’s why we are delighted to be releasing this free, innovative music-based therapy series for people from anywhere in the world to take part in.

“Pre-COVID-19, our care home workshops were incredibly beneficial to hundreds of people across Merseyside living with dementia. It was truly remarkable to see first-hand how participants who had previously been non-verbal began to sing along, along, and those with severe dementia who struggled to engage with the world enjoyed moments of joyful connection with others through dance.

“So, we hope these videos will give easy access to this fantastic resource for households, care homes and people living with dementia across the UK and beyond.”

The Brain Charity’s unique programme is made up of five Music Makes Us! Move workshops, and seven Music Makes Us! Sing classes – all set to familiar classic tunes by artists like Elvis Presley.

Combining dance and physiotherapy is proven to minimise the risk of trips and falls and help people living with dementia retain independence by increasing their mobility and maintaining balance and flexibility.

And blending singing and speech and language therapy strengthens mouth muscles, improving communication and reducing swallowing and breathing difficulties.

Before COVID-19, these sessions were running in care homes and community settings across Merseyside and had helped nearly 250 people. Now, it is hoped that more than double that number will take part, from anywhere in the UK.

Anyone who signs up will receive one email per week containing a specialist exercise video and guidance on how to join in safely. Participants will also be able to consult with The Brain Charity’s speech and language therapist and physiotherapist about any specific issues faced.

There is also another version of the programme designed for people who may benefit from its effects but do not identify as living with dementia or have an official diagnosis.

The courses have already been proven to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing for both participants and their carers and relatives, against a backdrop of reduced dementia support due to COVID-19 – something which has had a huge impact on people’s mental and physical health.

Kym added: “During the lockdowns, The Brain Charity assisted with research studies which revealed being unable to access support service due to COVID-19 worsened quality of life for those affected by dementia in the UK.

“So it is vital now, more than ever, that as many people as possible know about this free support – we have already seen its incredible benefits first hand. We hope this resource will be useful for loved ones at home, for residents in care homes and, when it’s safe again, for participants in community settings.”

Sign up for Music Makes Us! (funded by Quilter Cheviot) via The Brain Charity website.

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