Life & Faith: Music and the Mind

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Lives of Faith


Ivy is 105 years old and she loves music. She sings along to “old-timers” in the car when she’s traveling around Australia, and listens to “sad” songs before she goes to bed.

“I usually have the music playing softly,” she says, “I go to sleep that way.”

The truth is, Ivy hasn’t done that for a while. She lives with dementia and has been a resident at a care home in Sydney’s north for the past couple of years. Her carers tell me that Ivy goes to bed pretty early, around 5pm, and she doesn’t have a radio or music player in her room.

Instead, Ivy has an iPod loaded with a personalised playlist of songs for her to enjoy. It was given to her as part of Hammondcare’s new music engagement program designed by former music professor, Dr Kirsty Beilharz.

So, what’s on her playlist? “I like all the old time songs,” Ivy says, before the conversation suddenly shifts to why she didn’t learn how to play the piano. “My mother tried to make me learn but I was too much of a larrikin,” she says.

There are more than 353,000 Australians living with dementia in Australia.

As part of Dr Beilharz’s program, Ivy - along with 750 other Hammondcare residents living with dementia - have received iPods with personalised playlists so they can listen to the songs they love and remember.

In this episode, we speak with residents, a care worker and Dr Beilharz, about the unique and powerful way music and singing can connect with people living with dementia.