Fresh Hope Care has announced a partnership with I’m Soul Inc and Western Sydney University to help dementia patients engage by making music.

Fresh Hope Care has introduced a revolutionary music program to unify people through music with technology. This Australian-first pilot will serve as a way to delivering better patient outcomes, quality of life and research data that will optimise care for people suffering from cognitive decline. Supported by Western Sydney University, Fresh Hope Care believes the learnings will heighten the industry’s ability to deliver services to those who have physical or cognitive impairments.

Fresh Hope Care Executive Director Natalie Cook said the program is the first in a series of innovations the community can expect from the organisation.

“We are on a journey to stretch ourselves to deliver things that were once thought improbable,” said Cook. “This team has a real heart for those we care for, particularly the really vulnerable. We are committed to taking the time to realise new ways to serve them.”

I’m Soul Inc Founder and CEO Michelle Lee established the program from her Singapore base and is excited about the collaboration with Fresh Hope Care and Western Sydney University, which she said will have many positive outcomes.

“Our enabling music programmes are designed to help anyone to make music, with no previous experience required. There are no limits to age or ability. Making music is like a full mind-body-soul workout. It magnifies the therapeutic impact of music, far beyond just listening. You forget what you ‘can’t do’. It rewires the brain,” said Lee.

According to neuroscience research, music making is one of the few activities that stimulates and uses the entire brain. It also helps to increase the growth of new brain cells, which is critical for enhancing positivity and for rehabilitation of disorders such as strokes and dementia.

Research Theme Fellow for Health and Wellbeing, Dr Jennifer MacRitchie from The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour & Development at Western Sydney University said “there is great potential to use a system like this and really look at how it improves the quality of life for the residents.”

Western Sydney University recently received funding from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services to look at interactive music making in aged care and will be conducting a 12-month research project with Fresh Hope Care at the Pendle Hill Site, Ashwood Residential Care Service. The project will be supported by a generous donation specifically given to “improve the lives of those living at Ashwood”. Part of the project will be teaching residents to learn a musical instrument.

Lee continued “The ability to make music can also benefit those with physical and learning disabilities, those suffering from Alzheimer’s, as well as people with hearing and visual impairments. Many of them cannot make music the conventional way – they cannot hold an instrument or read the notes. We enable and include them to make music through technology and our programmes. The access is enriching and empowering with its positive effects spilling over to the caregivers.

“Most people do not know that music triggers the release of chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin in our brains that makes us feel happy and closer to others. This program is built for teams and is therefore helping to solve loneliness. It’s about the program, not just the tech.”

I’m Soul Inc is winner of the Asia for Good Readers’ Choice Award 2016 and Eldercare Innovation Awards Asia Pacific – in 2017 for Best Active Ageing Programme (Community) and in 2018 for Best Active Ageing Programme (Residential). It was also a finalist for the SliverEco and Ageing Well International Award 2018.

Cook said the Pendle Hill pilot would benefit all of Fresh Hope Care’s residents as the organisation continues innovating its care model and exploring different ways to engage with residents.