Dementia-friendly singing group launched in Oxford

published on 1 Nov 2019

Dementia-friendly singing group

A local Oxford Christian church and charity recently held a ‘Dementia Friends’ session for the local community and their church members. The friends session was a first step to helping local people living with dementia, together with their carers.

The Salvation Army in Oxford decided to respond to the growth in need by people living with dementia by launching, ‘Singing by Heart’; a dementia-friendly singing group for anyone in the local community. 

Older People’s specialist, Lee Highton-Nicholls from The Salvation Army was the Dementia Friends Champion for the session and said: “We follow the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends material to raise awareness and give local people an understanding of dementia. Many people know someone affected by dementia; for example, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to increase to over one million by 2025 and two million by 2051. There are now 40,000 people under the age of 65 with dementia*. The Dementia Friends session help to provide understanding and build confidence for those in contact with people, who may be affected.

“The Dementia Friends initiative is run to help make life better for people living with dementia in their communities. You may know someone on your street who you suspect is living with dementia, or you may have just found out a relative has dementia. The Dementia Friends sessions are about raising awareness and then inspiring people to take action to support their local community. Every person is unique and will have their own likes and dislikes, so it’s important to remember that dementia affects everyone differently.”

Oxford is the newest to join many of The Salvation Army’s churches across the UK to launch, ‘Singing by Heart’. 

Major Tim Johnson, Minister of The Salvation Army said: “We are committed to supporting those living with dementia in Oxford. We have launched a group that meet on the third Wednesday in the month, called ‘Singing by Heart’. People living with dementia can come along with their carers. ‘Singing by Heart’ is a chance to share the joy of singing with others through a mix of popular Christian and secular songs that most people would know. Singing really helps to make both a spiritual and mind connection and people really enjoy their time together.”

The initiative is the brainchild of The Salvation Army’s Older People’s Ministries and its Music and Creative Arts teams, who wanted to develop something practical in a spiritual context to help people living with dementia in the UK. The teams have developed a model for ‘Singing by Heart’, which can be replicated across the church and charity’s centres. 

The model includes a book of 30 memorable songs for groups to sing together. Research has proven that music can be therapeutic for people who live with dementia; The Salvation Army is seeing that ’Singing by Heart’ provides a practical way to help people who live with dementia by encouraging them to join in song with their carers, families and communities. Songs include classics such as, ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and well-known hymns like, ‘Give Me Joy In My Heart’. 

The Salvation Army rolled out its first free-to-attend Singing by Heart dementia café session in September and it already proved popular. 

‘Singing by Heart’ continues on 20th November at 12:30pm at Oxford Salvation Army, at The South Oxford Christian Centre, Wytham Street in Oxford, OX1 4TW with tea and coffee available (parking is available). 

More information about the event is available on the FB page, ‘Salvation Army, Oxford’ and more information is available about Dementia Friends on the Alzheimer’s Society website,