RMBI care home Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court in Essex has formed a choir, consisting of 30 members including residents, staff, volunteers and visitors. Named ‘A Choir to Remember’, the group meets every Wednesday morning to rehearse and perform regularly at a variety of venues, including the local church and other RMBI care homes.
The choir was developed by Home Manager Louise Baxter because of the link between long term memory and music. Singing is also proven to have a number of health benefits, including mental stimulation and can increase lung capacity. The group sings a variety of songs ranging from current popular music to the old favourites.
Louise Baxter said “The new choir has been a huge success. It has increased interaction between residents, staff and relatives and provided the group with a lot of laughter and joy. Many of our residents have a musical background and can play an instrument, so this choir has helped them to share their passion and become united with their fellow residents through a joint, fun activity. The choir has had a particularly big impact on those who find it more difficult to interact with others and has really brought them out of their shell. Singing has enabled a number of residents to recall lyrics and fond memories of music to create positive social interactions.”
The choir has provided a platform for people to communicate, regardless of age, background or ability. Residents have enjoyed sharing their memories of music and staff have seen an increase in residents’ confidence and a greater sense of community throughout the Home.
The choir has also recruited Leigh Thomas from the LMT Singing School in Essex to direct sessions every two weeks. She added “Research has shown that the auditory part of the brain is easier to access and continues to function for longer, when other memory skills fail with dementia. Some residents, who may not even remember their own names, have the ability to recall music which is familiar to them from days gone by. Singing is a great way to create a feel good atmosphere, bring joy, happiness and encourages communication from the participants.”
Participants have found that the choir has become a central part of their lives, and a highlight of their week. Resident Mr. John Wallis, 99, said “I enjoy the companionship and I do like to sing. I get a lot of satisfaction from it. I am really happy that the choir was set up”. His sentiments are echoed by Mrs. Jean Russell, 91 who said “I love it! I think we all sing beautifully! It’s the one thing I really enjoy and the company is nice. It makes me forget my aches and pains for a while.”
“I love Wednesday’s because of choir practice and the sustained feeling of wellbeing it gives me,” added Louise Baxter. “It has been great seeing how much we have grown in the 7 months we have been singing together. Our ability to sing is improving but much more importantly, our friendship and community is strengthened through music. Residents look forward to Wednesdays, many staff come in on their days off and families attend too. I feel very proud to be part of ‘A Choir to Remember’.”
A Choir to Remember are bringing some festive cheer by singing a series of Christmas carols, including Silent Night and Hark the Herald on Christmas Eve at the Home for their friends and family.