Music brings about similar physical responses in different people at the same time. This is why it is able to draw groups together and create a sense of unity ( Storr, 1992: 24)
How many people think of our care homes as a community within themselves?
Community is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a group of people living together in one place. However, the reality of a community is much more complicated than this. Care homes require residents to live together in a shared space with many staff and constant visitors. Although Care homes like to create a homely atmosphere, there is some argument towards whether this can actually be achieved. The NCHR&D Forum undertook research in this area in 2007 and in their paper they state that the concept of home “…promises autonomy and a sense of long term security, and these characteristics are difficult to replicate in even the smallest of care homes…” Therefore their suggestion is to focus on care homes being communities and concentrating on the elements required to make a caring, sharing environment where people are respected as individuals but have the opportunity to be part of a fruitful healthy community.
Community life is not always easy and this can be particularly true in a care environment where people may be experiencing a decline in their health both physically and mentally. Residents of care facilities are able to choose to spend time in the communal spaces of their facilities, but many more are confined to their rooms. This may be due to health issues or because they find community life difficult. According to the same report the NCHR&D states that there are key areas recognised as supporting the growth of community in care homes. These include shared decision-making and understanding the significance of relationships. The report also suggests that creating opportunities for meaningful activities is vital and that is where music can be of great service. A meaningful activity can be described as something which engages and brings people together in conversation and in space. These activities may provide the catalyst for residents sharing their life stories and likes and dislikes, therefore providing the opportunity for exploring identity and self and fostering friendships.
Music is amazing in its capacity to encourage all these aspects of meaningful activity:
Relationships– Positive engagement with staff is another social aspect that can be achieved through music. Staff and residents can share thoughts about music, dance together, and get to know one another through participating and sharing music.
Sharing Stories– Music encourages life stories to be shared. What music a person chose for their wedding, their favourite singer or group, times of dancing, times of romance, times of sadness can all be underwritten by music. Music can invoke memories of childhood and experiences of life.
Singing– What a lovely way to join in unity and participate in a shared experience! And a very portable activity too!
Choice– Music gives a person a choice. In a world where many choices are not available to residents, choice of music and choice instrument, choice to participate (or not) can be valuable! The choices that people make say something about them!
Listening– People that live in care facilities can sometimes feel they are not being listened to. Staff are so busy and people may be in other places. But when people come together in music people can feel heard. A lady participates in singing “We’re all going on a Summer Holiday” and then recounts how she and her husband went on the best summer holiday of their lives! Residents listen and start to think about their own summer holidays. This then becomes a talking point. Thanks Cliff!
Making noise together– One of the biggest musical team is the symphony orchestra. All working together- separate parts to become one beautiful noise! Musical activities such as forming a percussion orchestra with residents are really great for focus (watching for cues such as fast or slow) and gross and fine motor skills (playing the instrument) they provide an enjoyable fun activity for residents to share together. What is more powerful than being the conductor?!
Through shared and meaningful musical experience care home communities can grow closer. It is so important for people in the later years of their lives to feel respected, heard, valued and maintain their well-being. Music has been widely acknowledged to promote and increase positive interactions and experiences and this can only be of benefit to the communities within residential care settings.
Training and Development Manager