Roundtable on the power of music for dementia

On 21 May, we were delighted to host the third Nordoff Robbins roundtable, on music and dementia, in partnership with the Salford Institute for Dementia, for Dementia Action Week.

The roundtable explored the social value of music and the therapeutic impact of music for dementia, with participants coming together from across the political, research, health, music and music therapy communities to weigh in on these important issues. We were very thankful to Hazel Blears, Chair of Salford Institute for Dementia, for chairing the discussion, and to MPs Kate Green and Debbie Abrahams, and Prof Alistair Burns CBE, for their valuable contributions.

Nordoff Robbins Director of External Affairs, Communications and UK Development, Jo Carter, gave the opening remarks, outlining the impact of our work in 2017 – where we delivered 29,725 music therapy sessions to 7,916 people, through our own centres and in partnership with others. Prof Anthea Innes, Director of the Salford Institute for Dementia then set the context for the power of music for dementia alongside Margaret Rowe, Dean of the School of Health and Society for the University of Salford.

Nordoff Robbins Director of Music Services, Dr Simon Procter explored impact of music therapy on dementia, in our services in care homes and other settings, and how music in all its forms can benefit people living with dementia and their carers – having the potential to draw generations together, reduce social isolation and create shared positive communication at all stages of dementia. Simon also placed the debate within the context of Nordoff Robbins’ own and broader research – including the Commission for Music and Dementia’s recent publication, which states that “music can promote a range of hugely beneficial outcomes for people with dementia. Moreover, when used appropriately and in a meaningful way, the use of music has no known negative impacts.”

We were grateful to all participants for their valuable contributions. Discussion focused on how we can embed music-based interventions into the broader dementia agenda, and what more is needed for the importance of music therapy to be recognised. Many attendees shared moving stories of how their own lives have been affected by dementia, either personally, or through a close family member or friend, as well as the positive impacts they’ve seen music have – including music therapy, music groups, and playing as part of an orchestra, where the focus is on what people can do and on living well.