Engaging with music and memory this Dementia Action Week

During Dementia Action Week from September 21-27, the Sydney Opera House will showcase an Art, Music & Dementia Pilot Program, which Randwick and Hunters Hill residents were lucky to experience earlier this year.

Some of our residents living with dementia enjoyed taking part in a special musical event under the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House over summer 2019/2020. The Art, Music and Dementia Pilot Program featured a trio of musicians on flute, violin and harp, who had carefully chosen pieces that would resonate with their audience. They were joined by facilitators from the Macquarie University Art & Engagement Program. The day’s programme included pieces from Carmen and Orpheo and Eurydice, and encouraged residents to engage with the music and memories prompted by historical photos and artefacts.

“The day was a valuable reminder of the universal power of music to create engaging experiences for all of us,” says Creative Therapy Manager Maxine Radus, whose team supported the residents to take part.

Program sponsor Dr Eileen Ong was thrilled to see the pilot program come to life, after she approached the Opera House Accessibility team wanting to help develop a program for people living with dementia. “My great aunt had dementia so it’s an issue close to my heart,” she explains.

Residents became absorbed in the performance in the Utzon Room, before the curtains were raised to reveal water-level views across the harbour while they mingled with the musicians, capping off this special experience. “It’s just been the most wonderful day,” shared Randwick resident Leah Kaganer. “It’s like the whole world is in this room.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put on hold further development of the program for now, as it has for similar resident excursions, the SOH Accessibility team have released this video for World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21, during Dementia Action Week.