Nov 03, 2015

Reminiscence Therapy: Bringing Positive Memories Back to Seniors

Silver Memories is a radio station launched in 2008 by Brisbane station 4MBS Classic FM that plays nostalgic songs from the 1930’s through to 1950’s twenty-four hours a day targeted at seniors.

Gary Thorpe, General Manager of the station recalls his vision from the outset to create “positive memories” for seniors aged 70 years and over. The idea of Silver Memories came about after a personal experience when visiting his aged neighbour Jean, who was living in a nursing home. Jean was moved into care after having had a stroke. Gary witnessed Jean becoming more withdrawn and engaging less in conversation after such a short period of time living there. The activities in the nursing home weren’t enabling for Jean and didn’t provide enough stimulation. Gary recalls often finding Jean in front of the television watching shows or sport that if in her own home she would not have watched. “I really wanted to make her happy”, Gary shared with Aged Care Report Card. “So I thought what would she have listened to in her youth? In the 1930’s, 1940’s”. He started bringing in music, which had such a positive effect on her. Gary was determined to bring this happiness into more seniors lives and so after some time the Silver Memories radio station was created.

retro radio silver memories

The intention of Silver Memories is to provide stimulation, entertainment and companionship for seniors. There is also the broader objective in mind of addressing social isolation and loneliness that plagues the elderly at higher rates than the rest of the community. Silver Memories is a form of reminiscence therapy enabling seniors to remember positive times from their youth and early adulthood.

The station has been acknowledged as a non-pharmacological approach to managing symptoms and behaviours of people living with dementia such as agitation and wandering. Alzheimer’s Australia (Qld) has adopted the Silver Memories radios in the provision of behaviour management for their clients living with Dementia in the Brisbane area.

From the beginning Gary took a strong stance that there was to be no advertising or commercials throughout the program to ensure it was constantly engaging and what seniors wanted to hear. A positive for seniors, however a challenge at times for the station as advertising, often the main sources of funding for radio stations, otherwise run by volunteers relying on grants, sponsors or donations to make ongoing improvements to the deliverables for seniors. In the early days Silver Memories was only available through individually purchased radios at a cost of eighty-five dollars in Brisbane. However, as demand increased throughout Queensland and other parts of the Australia they tried other ways to reach their audience and allow access to the music. From streaming over the internet and more recently transmitting it through satellite technology. This involves installing the relevant receiving equipment with access through a low cost subscription service. With close to 60 aged care facilities in Queensland, NSW and Victoria accessing the radio station through satellite and having sold over nine thousand radio’s in Brisbane the program continues to reach a larger audience year on year.

music silver memories

Non-pharmacological benefits
Since it’s inception the service has received significant recognition for the therapeutic benefits of listening to the program. In 2009, the University of Queensland’s Australasian Centre of Ageing performed a study that showed a ‘statistically significant increase in well-being’, improved mood, and a more relaxed, calm state of being. The research was published in the international journal Activities, Adaptation and Ageing in June 2010.

This month Silver Memories will find out if they have been successful in their nomination for the International Dementia Awards. The awards are part of the Dementia Services Development Centre University of Stirling, United Kingdom which is the international centre of knowledge and expertise dedicated to improving the lives of people living with dementia. There are six categories, with Silver Memories short listed for the Dementia & The Arts award.

Griffith University in Queensland also has plans next year to research and evaluate the non-pharmacological benefits of Silver Memories for people with dementia specifically. Gary, whilst aware of the anecdotal evidence highlighting the benefits of the program believes this research project will further validate the life changing benefits in a more formal way.

Gary over the years has received numerous letters and emails from seniors, their families, and aged care facilities contacting him to share the benefits they have experienced through Silver Memories.

To read about these stories Click Here and you’ll see why Gary continues to find passion and inspiration to truly make a positive impact for the lives of seniors.

To enquire about the Silver Memories service, please call 4MBS ClassicFM on 07 3847 1717

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