BBC TV and radio presenter Lauren Laverne has been appointed as the ambassador for Music for Dementia 2020, a new campaign calling for music to be accessible to everyone living with dementia.
Laverne, who hosts Radio 6 Music’s flagship Breakfast Show, has joined forces with campaign directors to highlight the powerful impact music can have on people living with dementia.
The initiative is also backed by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, who said last month that more people with dementia should be offered music and dance therapy to manage their condition and prevent them from being “over-medicalised”.
Laverne, who is BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs while Kirsty Young is on leave, said the issue is close to her heart.
“I can’t imagine my life without music. We all instinctively know how important music is, and how beneficial it is for our wellbeing. It connects us to others, to our memories and boosts our mood. “There is now a vast amount of scientific research exploring the enormous benefits music has for cognitive, physical and mental health,” she said.
“Music’s connection to memory is something we intuitively understand and celebrate every day on radio shows like mine, but we are failing to use this powerful tool in the fight against dementia. Music should be made available to everyone living with the syndrome.”
Laverne will bring her experience and insight from the music industry to her role with Music for Dementia 2020 – an initiative created and funded by The Utley Foundation. She will help shape the campaign over the course of two years and increase awareness around how and why music can be used as an integral part of dementia care.
Neil Utley, founder and Trustee of The Utley Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to have Lauren Laverne on board as an ambassador, who brings vast experience from the music industry. I know that she will be hugely influential in helping to spread the message about the impact music can have on the quality of life for people living with dementia.
“People with dementia often live in a silent world. Yet music can be used to minimise their day to day anxiety. The ability to connect to music is an innate aspect of being human and there is substantial evidence to demonstrate that.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Dementia can have a devastating impact on people’s lives but music has been scientifically proven to bring calm, reduce agitation and support those affected to cope better with symptoms.
“I back Music for Dementia 2020, which offers a great opportunity for people with dementia, their families and carers to access music and get good value, easy-to-use social prescription that I fully endorse.
Grace Meadows, programme director at Music for Dementia 2020 and a senior music therapist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: “A song has the power to instantly transport us to a different place and time, and can have the most profound effect on people living with dementia and their carers.
“We want everyone in the UK living with dementia to have access to the music that means most to them and for it to be accessible in the most appropriate and effective ways.
“For some, this will mean ensuring they have the right technology – allowing them to enjoy their favourite music wherever and whenever they want. For others, it means being able to attend music groups and participate in music-making. For some, it may mean working with music therapists.
“Music for those living with dementia isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity.”
Music for Dementia 2020 is seeking to lead the field in music and dementia care, by creating a national taskforce of stakeholders who can effect change. This includes leaders from across the music, health, social and care sectors, MPs, and those living with dementia.
It will seek to build the UK’s first network for music and dementia programmes, support carers and look at how to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia, by making music readily available and accessible for all.
Organisers will be hosting a summer reception where representatives from the music industry, clinicians, practitioners and politicians will hear the goals of the campaign and have the opportunity to share ideas.