Former ballet dancer Norma Richards has a passion for music – and a smart speaker called Alexa.
Norma is one of several residents at Newstone House who are using smart technology to access their favourite tunes in the blink of an eye.
“It’s transformed my life,” she said. “When I sit in my chair and ask Alexa to play the music from Sleeping Beauty, or Swan Lake, the music instantly strikes up and I can retrace the dance steps in my mind.
“It’s also enabled me to discover music I probably never would have known about. I’ve become quite a fan of George Ezra, for example!”
Team members at the Sturminster Newton home originally bought a pair of smart speakers to use in group games and for music quizzes.
But the devices proved so popular with residents, that the home has bought more speakers to cope with demand and several residents, including Norma, have gone on to buy their own.
“Far from being frightened of technology, our residents have shown a real willingness to embrace it and use it for their own benefit,” said Rebekah Goddard, Companionship Team Leader. “When we first introduced a smart speaker the residents were enthralled by its ability to play music instantaneously – as if by ‘magic’.
“It was the talk of the lounge and a few people asked me to order them one and they now play them in their rooms for their own enjoyment.”
Rebekah explained the benefits of smart speakers for communication with people living with dementia.
“When you are reminiscing over favourite music or films from someone’s past, it is invaluable to be able to play that music, or a clip from that film instantly,” she says.
“In the past, we would have been playing songs for people from a stack of CDs and often by the time we would have looked up a song and put it on, the person’s memory of that music might have faded.
“Being able to play a piece of music while a person with dementia is recalling it evokes an incredible reaction. It’s simply wonderful.”
Fiona Pritchard, our Music & Arts Partner, agrees: “Music plays a huge part in our residents’ lives and technology can enable us as staff to maximise what we can offer them.
“I can go into a resident’s room and play them music with any one of my instruments. And if they want to listen to Brahms, some Doris Day, or even a Bruce Springsteen concert, they can have that available through a smart speaker, right there and then. It’s extremely exciting.”