Ellie Sherwood writes: “Heathlands Village is a care home in Prestwich, Manchester that accommodates the religious and cultural needs of people of the Jewish faith; however, they also accept residents of other faiths or no faith. Various musicians from the 2012/13 and 2013/14 cohort of students in the Michael Kahan Kapelye have been visiting Heathlands for the past two years, and have performed in several of the evening reminiscence sessions that take place at the care home. These reminiscence sessions are led by Charles Bloom, a volunteer at the Manchester Jewish Museum, who has a lot of experience of leading performances that allow older people to remember past events such as weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. The live music provided by the klezmer musicians enhances the reminiscence sessions, as residents at the care home are reminded of popular tunes that would have been played at the celebrations they regularly attended throughout their lifetime. The atmosphere of the sessions are always lively and positive, and many of the residents often get up to dance during the live performance.
With an increasing amount of research showing the positive influence of music on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, these klezmer performances at Heathlands are a significant and important part of the klezmer activity in Manchester. The live music enables residents to experience their past in a creative and positive way, and the fun and enjoyment of listening and dancing to klezmer music is shared by all who attend the reminiscence sessions.”
Lucie Phillips adds: “Giving it back is important not only as a sign of gratitude to those who have inspired us in life but because music is an integral part of community and health that sometimes gets forgotten later in life in healthcare settings. By playing the appropriate music in, for example, dementia care homes music can:
- help rid the confusion of this disease from someone, if only for a few minutes or seconds; music can stimulate the brain so that Alzheimer’s sufferers can remember again for a short while after;
- fill a void with enjoyment and companionship;
- be the only thing that still makes sense.
While science is still trying to find out why, the evidence clearly presents itself in real living people. Where there is so much isolation for dementia patients, music can cultivate community and collectivity through sharing music sessions and concerts. This doesn’t just animate residents, but brings such joy to staff and family members too, which renders the act of giving it back, through music in this case, evermore significant. We know music cannot cure alone but it certainly helps keep the soul living until the very end.”