Old songs inspired Warrington care home residents

Old songs inspired Warrington care home residents suffering from dementia, following a grant from West Lancashire Freemasons. The residents of Warrington’s Heathside Care Home sang along to classic songs of days gone by when they were visited by singer Margaret Fergusson, who performed the hits of yesteryear. This concert came at the end of Dementia Awareness Week, which started on 15 May 2017.

Margaret in operatic mode singing with Ken.

Margaret in operatic mode singing with Ken.

The music was aimed especially to be helpful to the care home residents who have dementia or some form of memory loss, as research has shown that music from their youth can temporarily stimulate memories in people with dementia and improve overall health and wellbeing.

The concert was part of a programme of concerts in hospitals and care homes around the country by the charity, Music in Hospitals, which has received a grant of £60,000 from West Lancashire Freemasons. The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which received funding from Freemasons and their families from across England and Wales.

Margaret and her pianist Jonathan Ellis played a variety of songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s from the time when the residents were young. These included songs from WW2, which is very appropriate for a charity that has Dame Vera Lynn as a Vice President.

Alzheimer’s Society figures show that 70 per cent of people in care homes have some form of dementia or memory loss and that these levels are increasing as the population ages. In 2016, Music in Hospitals delivered concerts to 1015 care homes with an audience of well over 25,000 residents. It is estimated that between 17,000 to 18,000 of these would have dementia or memory problems.

Pictured left: Margaret dancing with resident Ted Twigg. Pictured right: Resident Thelma Cooper dancing with Margaret.

Pictured left: Margaret dancing with resident Ted Twigg. Pictured right: Resident Thelma Cooper dancing with Margaret.

The music is also very beneficial to those elderly people struggling with stress and isolation, which is a growing problem throughout society, as well as within the healthcare and care home system.

Kevin Poynton Assistant Provincial Grand Master and John Starkey group publicity officer for Warrington Freemasons spent nearly three hours with the residents and the entertainers. Unfortunately, John was holding the camera so there are no pictures of him!

After the concert Kevin said: “This is a wonderful charity that has spent decades working hard in hospitals and care homes to bring the joy of live music to 10,000s of people. We are proud to be supporting them.” The day went very well from a 1:30 pm start in the residential care home, the entertainer Margaret Ferguson and her pianist Jonathon were brilliant and very soon they had the residents all singing and even a little bit of dancing!

At 3:00 pm Kevin and the entertainers moved into the other secure building where the residents were more seriously affected with dementia. The only way that the scene could be described upon their arrival was to compare it with flowers always in the shade, looking sad and lifeless, however when the music started it was like the sun had come out and brought the flowers to life.

Pictured left: Resident Ken (left) reminiscing with Kevin. Centre picture: Resident Geoff clapping to the beat! Pictured right: Kevin and resident Doris Hackett singing 'Let me call you sweetheart' as a duet.

Pictured left: Resident Ken (left) reminiscing with Kevin. Centre picture: Resident Geoff clapping to the beat! Pictured right: Kevin and resident Doris Hackett singing ‘Let me call you sweetheart’ as a duet.

Kevin said “It was heart-breaking to witness, but great fun and very satisfying to see how the music stimulated memories. It really matters not if five minutes after we left at 4:30 pm they had forgotten us. The fact was they enjoyed it whilst we were there. Three residents, who had been in a deep sleep since early morning, woke up and actually took part. From Ruth Williams right through to Harold, who had been a tank driver on the beaches of Dunkirk, it was very satisfying to witness and a privilege to be there. I was also very grateful for the considerable amount of time given up by our publicity officer John to capture some of the impressive results.”

Whilst reminiscing with a resident named Ken, Kevin discovered that Ken’s father was a band leader about 70 years ago and he travelled with him to most of his shows as a chaperone. Resident Thelma Cooper was usually known as ‘speedy’ for the way she travels at high speed with her walking frame.

Kevin and resident Jim Thomason, a carpenter by trade, who’s passion for big bands brought him into the room, where he and Kevin reminisced about the famous band leaders of yesteryear. Resident Joan Hallway (97) who enjoyed the sing-along exclaimed: “This is what makes the world go around”.

Steve Rowland-Jones, CEO of Music in Hospitals England and Wales said: “We are very grateful to the Freemasons for their generous grant. This will help us to reach 100s of elderly people in care homes across the country which would otherwise have been impossible.”

Pictured left: Kevin (left) with resident Jim Thomason. Centre picture: Resident Ruth Williams keeping the party going with her youthful banter!! Pictured right: Kevin (left) and resident Joan Hallway enjoying a sing-along.

Pictured left: Kevin (left) with resident Jim Thomason. Centre picture: Resident Ruth Williams keeping the party going with her youthful banter!! Pictured right: Kevin (left) and resident Joan Hallway enjoying a sing-along.

Article by Kevin Poynton and pictures by John Starkey.