A life long song helps dementia sufferers in Lancashire

From left: Ali Maze, Janet Wright  and Joy Thornley of Life Long Song
From left: Ali Maze, Janet Wright and Joy Thornley of Life Long Song
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Next week is national Dementia Action Week when people, workplaces, schools and communities are urged to take action to improve the lives of people living with dementia. Fiona Finch turns the spotlight on two local organisations doing just that.

If music was your first love, you would not want to let it go.

Janet Wright from Life Long Song with Julie Hanlon and husband James Hanlon at  a Life Long Song session at the the Charnley Fold Day Centre

Janet Wright from Life Long Song with Julie Hanlon and husband James Hanlon at a Life Long Song session at the the Charnley Fold Day Centre

For many people that is what happens when they develop illnesses such as dementia.

But music can continue to enrich lives in many and varied ways .

When dementia has robbed a person of previously valued interests and skills it is still possible to enable them to rekindle life enhancing memories and enjoy the present moment through favourite tunes and songs.

That is the launch point for a new initiative being developed at a Lancashire day centre with Chorley based social interest company Life Long Song.

Jessica McGinty with Abby Waylett from Age Concern Central Lancashire at the Charney Fold centre at a a Life Long Song session

Jessica McGinty with Abby Waylett from Age Concern Central Lancashire at the Charney Fold centre at a a Life Long Song session

Janet Wright, co-founder of Life Long Song, said: “When delivered effectively and sensitively, music makes connections ... We have seen this so many times. We have often sparked a musical memory and someone who has been very remote and unresponsive has suddenly come alive.

“This gives people caring for the person a sense of connection and identity that may have been lost. We can also give those with dementia some respite from the confusion as they are enabled to use their skills and even develop these skills, in a safe and supportive atmosphere. ”

Janet and Life Long Song co-founder Ali Maze say they want “to make active and carefully delivered music with as many people living with dementia as possible.”

This ambition chimes perfectly with a new national campaign Music for Dementia 2020 which they are supporting.

This has a mission – to make music available to everyone living with dementia by 2020.

Led by The Utley Foundation ,the campaign covers a wide range of musical activities – including listening to music, creating playlists, making music and music therapy.

It is anticipated that one million people will be living with dementia in the UK by 2021. By 2020 it is estimated 22,000 of those will be living in Lancashire.

It should be stressed that Life Long Song does not just help people with dementia find new joy through music - it has activities for all age groups from its Singing For Wellbeing group in Chorley to an initiative for parents and children.

It was set up in 2015, by Janet who had worked for the peripatetic music service in Lancashire and by Ali, a former teacher who worked with the hearing impaired.

They have now been joined by another director Joy Thornley.

Janet said: “Ali’s mother had had dementia right into her nineties and her dad had looked after her and Ali was familiar with it. The way we do active music had chimed with the way I had done music in schools when we had a class for music.”

As its name implies active music is not about passive listening but about taking part and experiencing music around you. Janet said: “We know the music is still there, it’s the last thing to go.”

Now they hope to organise a rhythm and chimes project at Age Concern’s Charnley Fold Day Support Centre at Bamber Bridge .

They have teamed up and are working with Age Concern Central Lancashire. Life Long Song has been able to purchase hand chimes and other therapy instruments with funding from the Community Foundation for Lancashire.

Charnley Fold offers a programme of varied activities for individuals living with various kinds of and stages of dementia. Day Centre manager Janet Turner said: “I have had the joy of briefly joining in a Life Long Song session, from this we are looking to develop our new project ... Music has a vital part in the activities that we deliver.”

The day support centre is hoping to host the music project each month.

Janet Wright added: “We are very excited to work with Charnley Fold. Our aim is to make music accessible to all. Everyone has musical skills and memories they can share. We want to build on these as we develop our project here. We will introduce songs that are well known or easy to join with and other rhythmic and harmonic ideas.

“We will tap into the interests of the participants so that everyone can contribute and be inspired. When we record our musical creations, submerse ourselves in a bit of part work or just have a jolly good sing we lose all sense of time. We go with the flow. It lifts the spirits, mine included. ”

News of the plans for the Charnley Fold sessions was released in the run-up to Dementia Action Week which runs from May 20 - 26, 2019. This is a national week which unites people, workplaces, schools and communities to take action and improve the lives of people living with dementia.

There will be a range of activities across the county.

These will include a Chorley Dementia Inclusion event on May 21 at Chorley Town Hall from 11 am to 3pm. The local council and Chorley Dementia Action Group have come together to provide a showcase for local services, advice and support groups for those living with or caring for those with dementia and Life Long Song will be attending.

At Fulwood Library on Garstang Road, there will be a Memories and Melodies event from 9.45 am on Thursday May 23; an Information morning will be held at Longridge Library on May 23 from 9am to 12 noon; a Dementia information afternoon at Coppull library on Monday May 20 at 2pm; Dementia awareness drop in at St Annes library on May 21 at 10am and a Dementia awareness drop in with Age Concern at Eccleston library on May 22 from 10am

*See: www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-action-week for more information

*Janet is a volunteer networker and speaker for Playlist for Life, which supports and guides family/friends etc to make a playlist for a dementia sufferer See www.playlistforlife.org.uk

* Life Long Song is keen to do more group therapy and music activity with people living with various stages of dementia .Email:lifelongsong@outlook.com

or see https://www.facebook.com/lifelongsongchorley/ or call 01257 276178.