The Bury group using the power of music to tackle dementia

A volunteer group in Bury has turned to the use of music to help people living with dementia across the area.

Dignifying Dementia, first established in 2018, organises two group sessions every week, crafted to ease the struggles of coping with the disease.

John Pearcey, one of the minds behind the group and a part of the weekly volunteer efforts, highlighted the importance of such free help in the face of societal stigma.

Mr Pearcey said: “The actual stigma is within the person themselves, because they don’t want to think about having dementia.

“We have several people who turn up to the group every week who still believe that there’s nothing wrong.”

One of the key aspects of Dignifying Dementia’s musical sessions is the use of props to encourage physical engagement

The sessions on a Wednesday give the patrons the opportunity to revisit songs from earlier points in their life, reigniting their cognitive abilities that are otherwise dulled.

“The idea is that music sits in the memory longer than anything, so they probably remember the original songs,” Mr Pearcey added.

“If you had a favourite song when you were seventeen years old and it came on the radio, you’d be able to remember all the words, and that’s the same for people in their seventies.”

The importance of volunteer groups like Dignifying Dementia was stressed by Mr Pearcey, with the association being formed after charity Making Space pulled their dementia groups from the town.

He said: “I think a lot of them (group members with dementia), if they’d been left with nothing, we would have seen a lot of people move into care homes, and die, earlier.”

Group members are encouraged to copy actions to the music

There are 944,000 people across the UK living with dementia and, with increased and improved testing, and an ageing population, clubs like Dignifying Dementia are set to become even more vital.

The pandemic brought a temporary halt to the group’s efforts, and Mr Pearcey explained how there is still a prevailing fear amongst the older population when it comes to socialising.

The hope is that, through the attraction of music and treating people with dementia with the respect that they deserve, the group can help this section of the community move out from the shadows.

“We’ve even had (Sir) Cliff Richard send us a signed CD, which was just lovely, and we raffled that off amongst those people that go at Christmas,” Mr Pearcey said, and the group still believes that the popular music legend will visit one day.

Dignifying Dementia runs every Tuesday at the Welcome Inn in Prestwich and Wednesday at St John’s Church in Tottington, with both sessions between 1-3pm.

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