Music can play ‘powerful’ role in improving lives of dementia sufferers – report

It follows a one-year study by industry body UK Music and the Music for Dementia campaign.

Music can play a ‘powerful’ role in improving the lives of those living with dementia and depression (PA)

By Alex Green, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter

Music can play a “powerful” role in improving the lives of those living with illnesses such as dementia and depression, according to a new report.

The document recommends the UK appoint a commissioner to “champion and coordinate” projects including the setting up of a cross-government taskforce.

The commissioner would also be responsible for leading a Life with Music consortium, made up of representatives from the health and social care sectors and the music industry.

(UK Music/Music for Dementia/PA)

The Power of Music report, launched on Wednesday at the Universal Music UK headquarters, looks at how music can support staff, create savings and generally improve healthcare services.

It follows a one-year study by UK Music, which represents the collective interests of the sector, and Music for Dementia, the health and music campaign.

Among those consulted were charities, the Government and the health and social care sectors, as well as musicians, music therapists, people living with dementia and their carers.

On top of recommending the appointment of a specialised commissioner, the report also suggests the creation of a major public awareness campaign, which would be supported by a website developed by Universal.

It also suggests training to teach front-line workers about the role music can play in their work.

The report notes “a clear need for better integration between the health and social care sectors around the inclusion of music as part of health and social care pathways”.

According to the NHS, music can reduce anxiety and depression in those with dementia, as well as helping to maintain speech and language.

Every day, more and more evidence emerges about the extraordinary health benefits of music and its potency as a non-pharmacological intervention

UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin

There should also be new investment partnerships between Government, industry and philanthropists to fund all these projects, as well as making existing partnerships “work smarter”.

New funding could go towards launching national music programmes that would allow greater access to singing and playing.

Music for Dementia campaign director Grace Meadows said: “The pandemic has shown us how we urgently need to reimagine health and social care in the UK.

“Music has a critical role to play in this and while we’re committed to making this happen, we can’t do this alone.

“We need leadership, public engagement and funding at the very least, including the appointment of a Power of Music Commissioner who will turn our recommendations into action.

“One of our biggest challenges is that many people still don’t fully appreciate the power of music, but we could begin to change that within a year.

“We’re calling upon the Government and leaders in the fields of health, care, music, charity and philanthropy to work together to ensure the greater use of music in social prescribing and make it a key tool in public health strategies.”

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “Every day, more and more evidence emerges about the extraordinary health benefits of music and its potency as a non-pharmacological intervention.

“Whether it is in improving wellbeing and quality of life, boosting mental health or supporting dementia care, music has an incredible power to improve people’s lives.

“When used correctly, music can be a miracle medicine – and while there are thousands of people across the country who have seen this first-hand, there are millions more who have yet to enjoy its benefits.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who wrote the report’s foreword, said: “Music can be a powerful tool.

“It is clear to me that more should be done to understand the social value of music, and the unique opportunities it presents to alleviate long-term and chronic conditions, including learning disabilities, depression and dementia.

“I look forward to working with the creative and health sectors to harness the power of music and boost its untapped potential to support health and wellbeing.”

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