Music for Life

Music for Life, Wigmore Hall

Aims –

  • To improve quality of life for people living with dementia through:
  • Participatory music projects
  • Experiential staff training
  • Workforce development with musicians
Objectives –  
  • To offer people living with dementia the opportunity to participate in music projects which have equality at their core.
  • To involve professional care staff in projects, using reflective tools to aid them in development of their professional skills and knowledge and application of person-centred care.
  • To offer ongoing training and development to musicians, giving them the skills and confidence to work with people living with dementia.
  • To work in partnership with arts and health organisations to ensure that projects are delivered with the right support, bringing together knowledge and expertise from different quarters.
  • To build a community of practice through training, conferences, research and publications; driving development of excellent practice.

Funding sources –

  • Arts and health funding; commissions; donations from trusts and foundations; and individual giving.

Timescale and delivery dates –

  • Music for Life has been running since 1993 and managed by Wigmore Hall since 2009.
  • Between 8 – 10 core projects are delivered every year.

Context –

  • Working with people living with dementia of all ages from diagnosis up to end of life.
  • Involving professional care staff and unpaid carers, such as family members.

Location –

  • Across London
  • Training and development across the UK and internationally

Setting –

  • Care homes; day centres, community settings; arts venues; extra care settings; and inpatient units.

Description of the arts activity

Artistic approach and medium –

Core projects:

  • Professional musicians work in teams of 3 to deliver improvised music sessions alongside people living with dementia (8) and care staff (5) over the course of 8 weeks.
  • Focus on equality of input, which is encouraged through use of improvised music.
  • Sessions encourage creative expression, emotional and practical engagement and communication, development of a sense of identity, community, and relationship building.
  • Reflective debriefing sessions after all workshops empower care staff to build their skills and see people with dementia in a new light.
  • Other work includes concerts and community projects with the same values but varying in content and delivery. Many include young musicians, offering them valuable experience of working with people living with dementia.

Participant engagement –

  • Projects and events engage participants through interactive activity, feedback and partnership working, allowing all voices to be heard.
  • A respectful and equal environment is created, encouraging engagement and participation in whatever manner a person finds comfortable (for example, active listening and playing a percussion instrument are equally valid).

Details of the project participants

Target population –

  • People living with dementia at all stages of life, with an emphasis on reaching people with later stage dementia or those who are socially isolated.
  • Paid and unpaid carers, family members and friends.
  • Method of recruitment / referral –
  • Participants in care homes are invited to take part by care staff, who first meet to discuss who might most benefit from the project.
  • Community participants are recruited through Memory Services and community organisations, as well as open marketing.

Project management

Roles and responsibilities –

  • Music for Life is managed by Wigmore Hall who employ a Project Manager to oversee all practical elements of the programme.
  • Overall responsibility for the programme rests with the Head of Learning at Wigmore Hall.
  • Our Lead Care and Development Partner, Jewish Care, advise us and aid our continued development through in depth knowledge of the Care Sector.
  • An Advisory Group made up of specialists in Arts and Health help to steer the programme’s direction (meeting 3 times per year).
  • A group of Lead Musicians steer musician development on the programme (meeting 3 times per year).
  • We work closely in partnership with Arts and Health organisations to ensure the high quality of all our projects and the wellbeing of our participants.
  • A team of trained Dementia Facilitators work across the programme and one is present at every session to work with staff through experiential learning and reflection.

Quality Assurance –

  • We work closely in partnership with dementia specialists to ensure that practice remains relevant.
  • We seek feedback from participants and care settings so that the project is continually evaluated.
  • The quality of music making is ensured through careful recruitment and ongoing development by Wigmore Hall.
  • Costs to participants –
  • Projects are free to participants, but care organisations will often pay a contribution to the running costs of the project.

Ethics and consent –

  • Participants are invited to take part and we work closely with our care partners to ensure that they are happy and comfortable to participate.
  • We ensure that participants and staff are aware that should they decide that they want to leave or stop taking part that this decision is respected and supported.

Evaluation methods and findings

Methods –

  • Ongoing evaluation by trained Dementia Facilitators using the principles of Dementia Care Mapping and Bradford indicators of Wellbeing and Ill-being. Through use of observation and reflective sessions with staff, the Dementia Facilitator produces a report on each project outlining the outcomes – based around the core aim of improving quality of life. Reports are contributed to by the care home and used as a basis for moving forward with training and care plans.

Learning / outcomes –

For  people living with dementia:

  • Internal evaluation suggests that Music for Life positively impacts on communication; reduces signs of depression; increases involvement in activities; increases acceptance of personal care; increases appetite; improves mood; increases interaction with others.

For care staff:

  • Internal evaluation suggests that the programme can improve staff confidence, wellbeing and job satisfaction.
  • Research by UCL has shown that Music for Life engages staff and increases their knowledge of personhood and dementia.

For musicians:

  • Research by the Lifelong Learning in Music research group in the Netherlands has found that Music for Life develops and nurtures key skills for working with people living with dementia; noting the importance of improvised music in dementia settings.
Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England