New dementia-friendly singing groups launched

published on 7 Sep 2022

Our churches in Willenhall and Beccles will be launching new dementia-friendly singing groups, called ‘Singing by Heart’ this month. Many Salvation Army churches across the UK run the groups already.

The initiative is the brainchild of the church and charity’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 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. Songs include classics such as, ‘Moon River’ and well-known hymns like ‘How Great Thou Art’. The Salvation Army will be hosting the hour-long sessions at low or no cost, throughout September and up to the end of the year.

The Salvation Army church at Beccles

Harry Woods is the leader of The Salvation Army in Beccles and will be leading the group. Before joining the church and charity, he worked in the care sector, mainly caring for people living with dementia.

Harry said: “I’ve been speaking to local people and there’s a definite appetite for something like this. Each month, we’ll be singing a selection of well-known songs and traditional hymns while there will also be the opportunity to socialise and chat, both for people with dementia and their carers.”

Harry stressed that the group is as much for carers as those living with the condition.

Harry Woods, leader of the church in Beccles
The leader of the church at Willenhall in the Black Country

Leader of The Salvation Army church in Willenhall, Territorial Envoy Lee Highton-Nicholls, said:

“We are committed to providing a space for those living with dementia in Willenhall. We want to welcome people into our future activities within the community. Every person is unique and will have their own likes and dislikes, so it’s important to remember that dementia affects everyone differently. People living with dementia are welcome to 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 enjoy their time together.”

Lee also worked in the care sector before becoming a local Salvation Army leader. Many people know someone affected by the disease; there are 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to increase to 1.6 million by 2040. There are also more than 42,000 people under 65 with early onset dementia in the UK.*

The churches contact details can found here:


Additional notes:

The Alzheimer’s Society says:

Dementia is a group of symptoms. It’s caused by different diseases that damage the brain. The symptoms get worse over time and include:

  • memory loss
  • confusion and needing help with daily tasks
  • problems with language and understanding
  • changes in behaviour.

There are many types of dementia but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. The next most common is vascular dementia. Information from the Alzheimer’s Society: *

Salvation Army officer speaking with a woman in one of our centres.

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