Today the What Works Centre for Wellbeing launches a new systematic review of evidence from around the world into what works, and with whom, for music and singing interventions.
For the first time, all available evidence has been collated and the strength of evidence has been measured. Decision-makers in charities, local authorities and funding bodies, or any organisation involved with the delivery of support services, can see which groups in society have improved wellbeing after participating in music and singing projects, or listening to music, and where the evidence gaps are.
Evidence into action: singing is good news for care homes
Some of the strongest evidence in the What Works review is on the benefits of group singing for older people. Here, an initiative that has successfully championed participatory singing in residential care settings for older people shares how they implemented evidence of the positive connection between singing and wellbeing in older people.
“The regular inclusion of singing and live music activities in residential care homes can support positive responses to Care Quality Commission’s assessment questions,” says a new report.
The report is part of an initiative entitled A Choir in Every Care Home, and is based on a year’s intensive work investigating the growing evidence for the benefits of singing. It includes the largest ever review of the published evidence about music for older people, and its findings on quality assessments have been endorsed by the regulator itself, the CQC.
Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, says: “Creativity and innovation are key ingredients in outstanding care homes, and regular singing and live music activities can help care homes positively address all five key questions our inspectors ask of care homes.”
A Choir in Every Care is a unique collaboration between 33 leading national organisations from adult social care, music and academic research. It is led by Live Music Now, Sound Sense and Canterbury Christ Church University, and supported by the Baring Foundation.
The findings from the first year of work were announced at the Arts In Care Conference on 24 May 2016, at an event jointly hosted by the National Care Forum and Care England. Consortium leader Evan Dawson of Live Music Now says: “We are all very excited by the evidence we have collected about the power of singing for older people. It’s encouraged us to be bold in recommending unequivocally that all care homes should introduce more music into the lives of their residents, staff and carers. It can be done at relatively low cost, and everybody benefits. There’s nothing else like it.”
The investigation has included surveys of over 400 care home staff and musicians, in-depth case studies, and the largest review of the academic literature ever, carried out by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre at Canterbury Christchurch University.
Of the research, Professor Stephen Clift says: “Taken as a whole, research on group singing for older people shows convincingly that singing can be beneficial for psychological and social wellbeing, and that it may be helpful in helping people to manage a wide range of health issues, including mental health challenges and physical health problems associated with chronic respiratory illness and Parkinson’s. It is clear also that singing activity can positive engage people across a spectrum of severity with dementia.”
The initiative has created a set of resources and toolkits to help both care homes and musicians to do more and better singing in care homes, together with 350 pages of research data and findings, all available at www.achoirineverycarehome.co.uk
“But we have only just started,” says consortium partner Kathryn Deane of Sound Sense. “We are now planning a large-scale campaign, training and support programme to enable, over time, every single one of the UK’s care homes to become a singing home.”