Escape to the Disco: How one DJ is using music as medicine for families and loved ones with dementia

Families have been transforming their living rooms into dance floors every week in sessions put on by a dementia communications specialist with the help of a DJ.

Salford-based Empowered Conversations has been holding ‘Escape to the Disco’ sessions with DJ Ged Reek for over a year since the pandemic started to help keep loved ones connected during lockdown. 

Care home residents and their relatives are able to tune into the hour-long Zoom calls to enjoy some music and movement, on a journey through a range of iconic genres and decades (accompanied by a bit of digging into the dressing up box).  

Since retiring, music-lover Ged has enjoyed getting involved in a range of local projects and activities, continuing to share his passion for ‘golden oldies’ tunes with others. 

We’ve had a virtual cuppa and a chat with DJ Ged to find what he enjoys about running the ‘Escape to the Disco’ sessions over the course of the pandemic.  

Ged said: “I have done a lot of ‘age-friendly’ discos for a range of groups, providing music for older people or those with mental or physical impairments and disabilities. But it did feel strange DJing online to start with because I had never done it before. 

“I didn’t know anything about Zoom – I was completely new to it! My hobby is music though, so I started putting my collection back to good use.

“I’ve got thousands of records and CDs, all the originals because I find that Spotify doesn’t have everything you need. My living room looks like a record shop!

“It’s an old cliché but I do believe that music is medicine. You can see people joining in, singing, dancing, and clapping along even though there is no actual contact.

“Thank heavens for Zoom. It’s the second-best thing at the moment. At least families are able to see each other this way, have a wave, and say hello.

“Once you put the music on, you can see faces light up and some people start to remember all of the words to the songs that you’re playing- it’s as if it sparks something off for those living with dementia.

“This kind of session is so helpful for general, mental, and physical wellbeing. Everyone can have a little dance together and it gets the muscles and bones going too.

“Lockdown has only really affected me personally regarding physical contact with people and being able to communicate face to face. Being a tactile person…I miss hugs!”

For more information on our Empowered Conversations ‘Escape to the Disco’ sessions and other online groups email EmmaSmith@ageuksalford.org.uk or visit www.empowered-conversations.co.uk 

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