Singers with disability help with dementia connections

Blog Singers With Disability Help With Dementia Connections

Unique musical pathways are working to break down the stigma around dementia on the Sunshine Coast, part of a region facing some of the highest rates of the illness in Australia.

Participants from Sunshine Butterflies ‘Rhythm & Soul’ program forged connections with people living with dementia, conjuring the songs of yesteryear to deliver a heartfelt musical performance for Seniors Week on Friday.

It is the second visit by the Sunshine Butterflies to Ozcare’s Noosa Heads Aged Care facility after a concert earlier this year left staff, residents and performers teary-eyed.

“Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians over the age of 65 and the third leading cause of disability burden overall,” Ozcare Noosa Heads Diversional Therapist Michelle Cole said.

“(The Federal electorate of) Wide Bay, which includes Noosa, has now and will have into the future some of the highest rates of dementia in Australia. As an organisation, we are working towards broadening community understanding of people living with dementia.

“Sunshine Butterflies singers captivated our residents on their first visit. It was so lovely and there were tears in everyone’s eyes, so we were very keen to get them back again. It not only breaks down barriers around dementia, but it is also breaking down the barriers around disabilities as well.”

According to Dementia Australia, the rates of the illness in the Wide Bay electorate are set to more than double by 2058 from 3679 cases to 7645 cases. That means there will be almost 8,000 people living with dementia in the Wide Bay region in the next 40 years.

Ms Cole said there was a big focus on research into the illness, however, education was also a focus for governments and aged care providers, with Ozcare recently launching a Dementia Friendly Community Forum in nearby Hervey Bay.

“Through interactions within community and business, it is shining a light on what it is like for people living with dementia as they are sometimes misunderstood and undervalued in our society,” she said.

Sunshine Butterflies Music Program Co-ordinator Linda Jones said the Seniors Week performance was a key part of the Sunshine Coast-based initiative to improve all areas of the lives of people living with a disability.

Ms Jones said the concert featured many crowd favourites such as Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon and Elvis Presley’s hit song Blue Suede Shoes, as well as Olivia Newton-Johns’ Hopelessly Devoted To You.

“To be able to perform in front of the public is very important to our participants because they have spent time in rehearsals and this gives them the chance to really build up their confidence and self-esteem,” Ms Jones said.

“We really pride ourselves on being able to improve all areas of the lives of people living with disabilities and their families by promoting health and wellbeing, independence and inclusion through our programs.”

She said some participants had taken part in additional programs such as Rockability, which teaches playing an instrument and singing and songwriting, culminating in a recently recorded CD in a professional studio.