Manchester Camerata, along with The University of Manchester, have developed a therapeutic music-making system for people living with dementia

The University of Manchester and Manchester Camerata, named as the UK’s most adventurous orchestra by The Times newspaper in 2018, have developed a music-based therapy that has had a positive impact on the lives of dementia sufferers, their families, and the carers that support them. As a result, Music in Mind Ltd has been created to help deliver this transformative therapy.

The therapy, which consists of structured music-making often facilitated by a member of the orchestra, has been academically developed by The University of Manchester’s Prof John Keady and Dr Robyn Dowlen.

In many regions of the world, because of increasing life expectancy, dementia is impacting more and more people. Total healthcare expenditure for dementia treatment and palliative care in the UK alone totals more than £34.7 billion which, following current trends, is projected to increase 172% to nearly £60 billion by 2040.

The establishment of Music in Mind Ltd will provide the focus necessary to develop a highly professional accredited training system suitable for global dissemination. Different packages will be developed to address the needs of those with no assumed musical knowledge or for musicians with no specific music therapy skills, or trainee music therapists.

Three people with dementia being taught to play musical instuments by a Music in Mind therapist.

Being able to convey emotions and expression via instruments is invaluable to individuals whose cognitive abilities have degraded to a non-verbal state.

The vision of Music in Mind is truly international as dementia knows no boundaries. Therefore, the training packages that will be developed will be translated into many different languages. The goal is for the orchestra to become a global thought leader in music-making for people with dementia by 2022.

Manchester Camerata and the British Council are working in partnership to develop arts and ageing programmes in North East Asia.

Benefits of the Music in Mind system
• A bespoke package of music therapy training structured to remove barriers to participation and socialisation for people living with dementia (PLWD).
• Sessions elicit feelings of pride, inclusion and belonging in PLWD, this corresponds with increased quality of life results in studies.
• Simple instruments provide a highly accessible means for self-expression, independent of verbal communication – vital for those in non-verbal stages of cognitive decline.
• Sessions facilitate “conversations without words” to break down the barriers isolating PLWD, improving relationships between participants and their families, care staff, and practitioners.
• Reinvigorated personal relationships protect against the development of burnout and compassion fatigue, which can cause mental and physical symptoms akin to acute depression, in family members and care staff around the PLWD.
• Alleviating such stressors on caregivers, who might otherwise visit their GP for mental health support or prescription medication, will indirectly benefit healthcare systems.

Two hands placed on a drum.

Group musical performances provide an opportunity for people with dementia to socialise, share, and engage with their individual musical history and identity, and that of others.

The Music in Mind system is validated by current theories on the interaction of music and the mind.

You can find out about their new programme, Music in Mind Remote, which offers this service virtually, here:

Music in Mind Remote