Music in Mind uses music therapy-based principles to improve the health and wellbeing of people with dementia and their carers.

Manchester Camerata Orchestra, alongside research partner The University of Manchester, have continued to develop the programme, delivering in care homes and community settings since 2012 and has created a scalable and sustainable model of delivery with its Music Champions programme.

Through a combination of in-person and online training delivered by Camerata’s team of music therapists and musicians, the programme empowers a growing community of Music Champions (paid carers, family carers and volunteers) to use music therapy-based improvisation techniques and pre-recorded music tracks within their own music groups as well as one to one with individuals to help and support people with dementia in their care.

The Music in Mind sessions support the carer as much as the person with dementia, finding new ways to communicate, enabling true expression and creating ‘in the moment’ experiences that helps everyone to connect.

Evaluations demonstrate consistent impacts and results for people with dementia who participate in our sessions:​

  • increased social interaction with other residents/participant (100%) ​

  • increased activity levels outside Music in Mind sessions (77%) ​

  • a greater sense of wellbeing (100%) ​

  • increased musical interaction and confidence to express oneself musically (88%)

(Dr Heidi Koljonen HKD Evaluations, 2020)​

To deliver the Music Champions programme, Music in Mind partners with different organisations including care homes, supported living developments, housing associations and community groups across Greater Manchester. These partners include Anchor Care Homes, Millenium Homes, HC-One and Onward Homes within the care home and supported living sector. Our partners supporting people with dementia living in the community include Rochdale Mind, Dr Kershaw’s Hospice Oldham, Together Dementia Support, Manchester, and Wigan Later Life and Memory Service.

The programme is designed to flex to suit different environments, and supports people with dementia with all levels of capability including those who are in the early stages of dementia right through to people who may have limited movement or speech. It has been very exciting to see how each care home and community group has developed through the Music Champions programme to create unique experiences for their residents and group members, and also how the programme has impacted on the carers themselves.

Rochdale Mind and Music Champions

In autumn 2023, supported by Rochdale Borough Council, Music in Mind began a partnership with Rochdale Mind and Mosscare St Vincents Retirement Housing to create a music group open to people with dementia from within the Rochdale community.

Carers/volunteers and paid staff from different Rochdale community groups were invited to be supported as Music Champions over 15 weeks of in-person music sessions with the Music in Mind music therapist and musicians. The Music Champions then joined Music in Mind’s community of practice training online where Music Champions from across the Greater Manchester projects come together with the music therapists and musicians to share experiences and receive ongoing support and training.

The music therapist and musicians delivering the Rochdale group have adapted the Music Champions programme in a particularly interesting way as the people with dementia attending are predominantly of South Asian heritage, where English is not their first language. Led by requests from the Music Champions and people with dementia in the group, the musicians have been able to incorporate South Asian music tracks and songs as well as translating the standard ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ songs into Punjabi, Swahili, Urdhu and Bangla!

This new content is now being used by groups in other areas of Greater Manchester as Music in Mind Music Champions continues to develop and diversify its offering, reaching out to otherwise underserved communities.

Music in Mind systematically seek out the input and feedback from Music Champions, family carers and those with lived experience of dementia across all partner sites, to ensure that they continue to deliver a high quality and engaging service. This includes input from an Expert Reference Group of professional and volunteer/family carers as well as anecdotal evidence from Music Champions and participants across all of the groups.

Some of the feedback received:

“This project is so powerful. It offers the person being cared for and the carer a different way to enjoy time spent together. Musical interaction helps people express themselves in a way that other methods don't always succeed for people with dementia… I feel very privileged to see and be part of these interactions and connections through music.” - Caroline Pheasey – Music Champion and Care Market Training Coordinator, Adult Care and Support, Rochdale Borough Council

“The music made me think of home” participant in Rochdale Mind Music Cafe

“Honestly what you do and have given my mum (hope) that means to me you guys are unsung heroes. You are honestly fab and after mum’s first session, I literally cried happy tears. Mum is looking forward to going again. So my family and I, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, to each and every one of you xx” - Family carer, Gorton Monastery”

“I have watched some of our Music in Mind participants transform during the music sessions. The sessions have enabled communication, playfulness, laughter, has been amazing to see the connectedness that the sessions promote……The musicians have met our staff where we are and supported us to become music champions with skill, warmth and kindness, and our confidence to support music sessions has grown so quickly. The Music in Mind sessions have enhanced the support we can offer to people living with dementia and their carers significantly.” - Kathryn Harding, Music Champion and Wellbeing Centre Manager Doctor Kershaw’s Hospice, Oldham

“My learning journey has been amazing… It was lovely to have the meetings with others to get some new ideas. Everyone has been so supportive and it has given me my confidence back.” - Carer from a Manchester care home

Music in Mind continues to be inspired by the people with dementia they meet, and the carers who support them. The enthusiasm, gratitude, relief and simple joy which is experienced in each and every Music in Mind session drives them forward to find new partners and new ways to fund this inclusive and important work across Greater Manchester and beyond.

Find out more information about Music in Mind and the Music Champions programme here.

Follow this link to a video testimonial from one of Music in Mind’s Music Champions describing the impact of Music in Mind on her own role and on the care home residents.

Photo Credit: Music in Mind © Rochdale Mind Music Champions group
Photo Credit: Music in Mind © Rochdale Mind Music Champions group