Music and Memory: How Radio Stations Impact the Health of Older Australians

Older Australians represent a significant proportion of individuals with diverse ethnicities, cultures and religious backgrounds. This increasing population requires different interventions and programs to break down language and cultural barriers, hence music plays an important role. From love songs to memorable music from TV shows, music represents certain moments in time that are rooted in the minds of individuals, despite forgetting the occasions. It appeals to a person’s most inner self and holds a special place in people from all works of life.

Photo Credit: William Li
                                                                                Photo Credit: William Li

While music can trigger positive thoughts and memories, the use of speech, song, memory, cognition, intellect, creative imagination and expressive motoric responses may be activated and developed in therapy, both as new means of self-expression and as a therapeutic goal. Music improves both health and well-being, therefore people with no musical background or prior skill can benefit from music therapy. For instance, patients with dementia can gain from music reminiscence therapy, a non-pharmacological approach to managing symptoms and behaviours of dementia such as agitation and wandering.

Various studies have shown that older adults are found to respond most positively to repertoire that was popular when they were in their early 20s and 30s, stimulating long-term memories. In Australia, Silver Memories helps residents remember their youth and early stages of adulthood. The new nostalgia radio station is for older adults who are lonely and socially isolated in the community, especially residents of aged care homes. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides therapeutic benefits to people with dementia, since research has shown that the service is a unique approach in managing the effects of dementia – the first of its kind. Now the radio station has been rolled out to numerous aged care homes in Australia using satellite technology. The video below includes an excerpt from a documentary called Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.

Hazel Dompreh is currently a Diversional/ Recreational Therapist at a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia.

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