ACU research finds silent discos benefit people living with dementia

New ACU research is showing how busting a move via silent disco technology can boost the wellbeing of residential aged care residents with dementia.

Led by Dr Kirsten Challinor, the research looked at the impact of music therapy on seniors living with and without cognitive impairment.

The research, in partnership with Australian social enterprise Moove & Groove, has helped alleviate loneliness and foster connection between residents and their families during COVID-19.

Dr Challinor, a psychology researcher with ACU’s School of School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, and her team have worked across 63 Uniting aged care homes In NSW and the ACT investigating how Moove & Groove’s silent disco technology can enhance wellbeing.

Isolated residents took part in immersive activities including personally curated music, podcasts, and videos, corridor singalongs, socially distanced bingo, virtual exercise classes and streamed religious services.

Demand for the program- delivered via wireless headphones and accessed via an app - has seen many aged care homes utilise the technology to engage and entertain residents during social distancing. Several have used it to connect families to residents when visitors have not been permitted.

While looking at how to best use headphones to bring joy to aged care residents, Dr Challinor and her team also focused on ways to improve the wellbeing of staff and carers.

Early analysis shows the program has had a positive impact on dementia-related behaviours and reduced vocal disruption, agitation, pacing and apathy.

Dr Challinor will now look at the potential of the program to reduce the use of medications and violence within care facilities.

She said 65 per cent of staff who participated in the research believed the program could lead to a reduction in the use of psychotropic medications that are sometimes used in the homes.

“Music has great potential to bring joy to people living with dementia as memory for music remains intact even once memories of people, places and words have faded,” Dr Challinor said.

Increased job satisfaction has also been identified in 80 per cent of staff surveyed reporting that the silent disco technology provided them with a vehicle for connection with residents.

Moove & Groove founder and chief executive Alison Harrington is thrilled with the impact the program is having on aged care residents.

“The early results of the ACU study reinforce the benefits we see every day in aged care homes,” she said.

“The program is not only engaging residents in remarkable ways, but it’s also assisting staff during what is an incredibly difficult time for aged care workers.”


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