Music makes us move. Music makes us sing.

Innovation in dementia services and The Charity leading the way

Dementia can feel like being trapped. Not being able to move when and where you want to. Losing our ability to talk, to communicate with our loved ones. It can leave us feeling alone, isolated and left far, far away from the rest of the world. 

The latest NICE guidelines for dementia highlight the value of diverse treatment options for the different stages and symptoms of the condition including non-medical treatment. At the same time, there is a growing amount of literature that highlights the capacity of the arts to address this complex and frightening condition, and music is a key theme running throughout it.

Music has a life of its own in our brains. When we listen to music, we “understand” in a different way. The processing of music is distributed throughout our brain, rather than just being located in one area like language. It’s a network that connects up feeling, visual imagery, bodily memory, movement, and much more. 

In the last few years, studies have shown that, even when dementia affects the parts of the brain that process language, when people with dementia listen to music they can somehow still recite songs and access their associated memories with them. 

Because of this growing body of evidence the third sector has seen the successful delivery of many local and national music-based projects such as dance and singing classes for those with the condition.

And, because The Brain Charity is a medium-sized organisation, they can allow themselves the freedom to innovate and try out new ideas. 

We find out how they are using their unique position to bridge health, social care and the arts to take these ideas to the next level. 

Background to The Brain Charity

The Brain Charity offers emotional support, practical help and social activities to anyone with a neurological condition and to their family, friends and carers.  

Their services include: Counselling (both C.B.T. and Person Centred Counselling), Welfare Benefits advice, supported volunteering opportunities, employment advice, a public library, online information, creative classes such as craft clubs, carers advocacy and they are also home to The Brain Food Café, a community café which offers a range of food and drinks many of which are specifically designed to boost brain function.

The charity also provide a link worker service within The Walton Centre NHS Trust neurological hospital which provides outpatient and inpatient social care support. 

They are an awarding-winning Charity and have most recently received The Queens Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade given by the Crown to Third Sector organisations. 

The Big Idea

In September The Brain Charity proudly announced that it had been awarded £150,000 by Quilter Cheviot, an Investment Management Company, as part of their ongoing Dementia Initiative. 

The announcement stated that over the next three years The Brain Charity would be designing and running workshops, which will utilise the skills of professional dancers and Singer-Song Writers alongside Physiotherapists and Speech and Language therapists to improve rates of mobility and communication.

Regular dance classes which incorporate physiotherapy exercises and singing classes which are built around speech and language exercises will be delivered in a fun, warm and welcoming atmosphere. 

The Brain Charity believe that delivering these health interventions through music-based exercises may well offer higher success rates for those with dementia. 

Nanette Mellor, Chief Executive Officer at The Brain Charity, is looking forward to putting this award to extremely good use: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this funding by Quilter Cheviot. We hope that the project will provide a cost effective way of delivering community based neuro-physiotherapy and Speech and Language services that also offers high impact results for people with dementia.’’ 

They are due to start around December this year and will run in 12 week blocks, with up to 15 people in each session.  

For more information on the project please contact: