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Live Music in Care

The impact of music interventions for people living and working in care home settings

February 27, 201927 February 2019

Arts and health

University of Winchester and Live Music Now


Dr. Christine Tapson, Douglas Noble, Prof. Norma Daykin, and Dr. David Walters

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Using a mixed methods approach, University of Winchester researchers in the United Kingdom (UK) found that weekly sessions with professional musicians resulted in “significant benefits” for residents, staff, and the overall atmosphere in five care homes.

Weekly sessions with musicians were mostly focussed on singing and the use of voice, but some sessions included musical instruments. The mixed methods included observation of 15 music sessions (guided by a tool for the evaluation of performing arts activities in health care settings: the “Arts Observation Scale”), five reflective interviews with care workers, and online questionnaires for staff. Researchers measured residents’ responses to the instruments, genres, and repertoires.

A key finding was that the music intervention had particularly strong effects on the communication skills and mood of both residents and staff. Among residents, the researchers found that the music sessions led to “an enhanced mood that moved some residents from withdrawal to expression” and “a changing atmosphere that lifted the mood of residents and care staff alike”. Among staff members, the music sessions were found to improve the work atmosphere.

Music was found to have physical benefits as well. The use of percussion instruments stimulated residents by encouraging “a physical response to the beat of the music that encouraged physical exercise”. However, in some cases, residents felt “confused and anxious” about the use of these instruments.

The report highlighted the following conclusions:

  • “Musicians can play an important role in nurturing the wellbeing of elderly people in care
  • Regular music making can enhance the working and living environment for care home residents and staff
  • Music interventions can play a crucial role in awakening a sense of identity and empowerment for care home residents
  • Strategic planning at the outset establishes an essential structure and definition of tasks that provides a framework for the music programme.”

The research team found that there was a strong desire among residents, care staff, and managers to sustain the program. On the strength of the evidence, the researchers recommend that “regular participatory music programs be considered essential for all UK care homes”.

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