Dementia is rapidly becoming the health and social care challenge of the 21st century. Numbers affected are set to soar because of an expanding older population.
Guest blog by Lyndon Owen MANAGING DIRECTOR E2L Limited
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes.
- By 2015 there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.
- There are 40,000 younger people with dementia in the UK.
- There are 25,000 people with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK.
- There will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025.
- Two thirds of people with dementia are women.
The power of music
The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kickstart the grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.
Age UK has reported on the impact music can have and music is now a regular feature in dementia care. “We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life,” says Professor Paul Robertson, a concert violinist and academic who has made a study of music in dementia care.
We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.
The benefits of music for people with dementia can be amazing; both for improving the quality of life, especially when living alone, and for its healthy restorative effects on memory.
A problem however, has been the difficulties people with dementia face when trying to operate music playing equipment. Technology is storming ahead with smartphones but is leaving older people behind who just want to hear music.
Remembering how controls operate or manipulation of knobs, non-tactile buttons, and an array of confusing symbols can be confusing.
I became aware of an extensive research project undertaken by the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (now called ‘Designability’) which evaluated the concept of a simple-to-use music player.
We decided to take on the design and development costs and turn it into a viable product under licence.
Our first Simple Music Player has just come off the production line and we are now in full swing making our three designs.
The ‘Simple Music Player’ has been designed to be as easy as possible to operate for the end user; that is, the person with dementia.
Setting up the player is undertaken by friends, family or carers, as a one time process.
The styling is also reminiscent of old radios and is instantly recognisable as something which plays music.
To operate, there are only three controls:
- Start playing music – just lift the lid
- Skip this song – (optional) press the big button
- Stop the music – close the lid
I am delighted we have been able to bring this great simple music player idea to market and we look forward to making music and helping people reconnect with a world they thought they had forgotten
You can BUY the Simple Music Player on the RUS shop
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