Campaign aims to get people signing to help tackle loneliness

The RVS said age is no barrier when it comes to performing together.''Student Heather McDermott pours tea for dementia ambassador Muriel Hick. The pair took part in a intergenerational choir in Chapel Allerton. '''Picture by Tony Johnson
The RVS said age is no barrier when it comes to performing together.''Student Heather McDermott pours tea for dementia ambassador Muriel Hick. The pair took part in a intergenerational choir in Chapel Allerton. '''Picture by Tony Johnson
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THE POWER of music is being used to prove “age is no barrier” when it comes to friendship and help people with dementia to connect to those around them.

The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has launched a new campaign to get people singing to stop the loneliness and isolation felt by thousands of older people across Yorkshire affected by dementia.

Research shows that music has the power to help those with the illness, by stimulating and unlocking people who may be removed from the present through their illness.

Singing can also help to recall memories and emotions, and even enhance mental performance, the charity said.

Research by the RVS, partners in The Yorkshire Post’s loneliness campaign, showed 2.4m Brits are currently in a choir.

More than two fifths of people aged over 75 who responded to a RVS survey said music helps them remember special moments, and 53 per cent it lifts their mood and cheers them up. For those in a choir, 37 per cent said that it keeps their mind active and can even help with memory.

The charity helps run five dementia friendly choirs in Yorkshire - three in Leeds, one in Kirklees and one in North Yorkshire.

At Meanwood Elderly Neighbourhood Action (MENA), who meet in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, members of an intergenerational theatre group, which brings together students with older people, recently put on a production featuring a dementia choir.

The choir will next month perform at Leeds Art Week to raise awareness of the RVS’s new campaign, Sing Your Heart Out, which encourages people to put on performances to raise money to help the charity to support vulnerable and isolated older people.

Natasha Mort, the RVS operations manager for North Yorkshire, York and Leeds, and West Yorkshire said: “When you hear a song, it can bring back all sorts of memories, from what you wearing at the time you heard it for the first time, where you were, even smells. It’s incredibly powerful for people with dementia.

“For those who are lonely, coming along to a choir with a befriender or volunteer can open up a whole new social circle. At our sessions we always take the time to have a break so people can have a cup of tea and a chat, and our befrienders are there until people build up the confidence to attend on their own.

“Music covers all ages - it’s not a skill you might lose as you age, and it brings people together. And at our intergenerational choirs, we find that people have a lot more in common than they think. Age is no barrier to friendship.”

The fundraising campaign wants choirs to arrange events to raise money for the charity. By selling one £6 ticket to a show, a choir could provide a nutritious meal to someone who needs it through the RVS’s Meals on Wheels service. £200 would help recruit,train and support new volunteers.

Chief operating officer of the RVS, John Pearson said: “We’re asking choirs to sing their hearts out and do it with pride for Royal Voluntary Service to help us reach out to older people who are in need of support. Every penny raised will help older people to live independent and fulfilled lives.”

To find out more about the campaign, visit www.singyourheartout.org.uk

The Yorkshire Post wants loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority in our communities.

We launched the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2014 after revealing the heartbreaking scale of social isolation in the region. According to research, living with loneliness is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can contribute to dementia and high blood pressure.

In partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness, we also want to encourage more people to volunteer for support services.

For full details, visit yorkshirepost.co.uk/lonelines