The Together Project founder Louise Goulder on how a multi-generational singing group is tackling loneliness
George lives in a care home and has recently been diagnosed with cancer. He spends a lot of time in his room, often shouts at other residents when in a low mood, and is socially isolated.
Joining a weekly music group with young children and their parents has had a transformative effect on the 87-year-old, however. Songs and Smiles is an initiative we’ve launched to bring together young children, their parents or guardians, and older people, to sing, move, play instruments and socialise.
Currently running in three Waltham Forest homes, a fourth group is launching this month at Parkview House Care Home in South Chingford. and will run weekly on Tuesdays.
My aim with Songs and Smiles is to reduce loneliness, improve people’s wellbeing, and unite diverse groups of people that might otherwise not meet. We want everyone to come away with a huge smile on their face!
The sessions are enriching for the youngest through to the oldest members of the group, particularly for those residents who are living with dementia. Music has a proven beneficial effect on people with the condition, and care home staff have noted the impact that Songs and Smiles has on those in their care, with one describing it as “like a miracle”.
Karolina Gatkiewicz, former activities co-ordinator at the now-closed Ross Wyld Care Home in Walthamstow, where the group first launched, describes the effect the weekly sessions had on the emotional and physical wellbeing of residents: “We began to see changes – emotional changes, verbal even. We had a few residents who cannot really talk and I realised they began to try to say something.
“As soon as the parents and kids came in I saw a smile on their faces. It was priceless. This kind of session is amazing for people with dementia”.
And it’s not just the older people that benefit; the groups have had a powerful impact on many parents as well. Robyn, mum to four-month-old Ted, has post-natal depression and says coming to Songs and Smiles has been a breath of fresh air: “I feel valued and energised as a result of the session, with a lift in my mood.
“It has also made me feel more a part of the local community”.
As for the children, many parents have commented on the benefits that they feel Songs and Smiles has on their little one’s development. Asuka, mum to seven-month-old Isla, says: “It’s a very enriching experience for my daughter and the ethos of the project is consistent with the values I hope to model to her.”
We are so thrilled to be expanding our Waltham Forest groups. We’ve had such a wonderful response from families in the borough who want to get involved, we can’t wait to welcome more of them at our Parkview House launch.