Drum Circle for elderly
Elderly people and drum circles
for Elderly People
Elderly people and drum circles
The concept of an ‘ageing society’ is one that is very familiar: many countries around the world are having to adapt and make changes - finding solutions to problems that arise, but also increased understanding around what it means to live a long and healthy life.
As formal health services have limited capacity to respond to the scale of these challenges, the role of wider lifestyle activities in promoting health and wellbeing have gained greater recognition, and there is now clear evidence that social and recreational activity is beneficial in later life. There now exists the development of ‘Social Prescribing’ - whereby doctors are able to formally prescribe relevant activities to their patients as a way of promoting and sustaining health.
Active music making has been shown to offer a holistic effect on wellbeing, with positive outcomes in cognition, mental health, physical vitality, social and emotional areas of life, and has been shown to offer consistently higher measures of well-being than other social group activities (1).
Why Drum circles?
Can older people drum? Of course! Drumming can be particularly suitable for elders: instruments can be made highly adaptable - using soft sticks instead of hands, or using lighter weight percussion instruments. Rhythm is accessible across any age or cultural background, allowing whole families to participate together - grandparents and grandchildren sharing a beat. The Village Music Circles (VMC) approach to drumming makes it possible for anyone to drum, even a complete beginner - imagine the joy and pride in learning a new skill aged 85!
As an activity, drum circles offer the following benefits to older people:
• Light exercise
• Social contact
• Mental stimulation
• A chance to try something new
• Opportunity for creativity, mastery and skill development
• Potential for intergenerational engagement
There are many ways to participate - simply attending a community drum circle with friends or family, attending an ‘elder-specific’ drum circle that may have more adaptations in the pace of delivery and the range of instruments. Drum circles are now regularly happening in care homes.
Drumming and dementia
There is no barrier to participation. In dementia, musical recognition and ability is often preserved – drumming also includes many of the recommended strategies to preserve brain health: social contact; light exercise; and mental challenge and stimulation. Rhythm is a powerful tool that draws people into participation and interaction - forming conversations without words. The VMC approach is particularly suited to people with dementia, because participants are empowered to create their own rhythms - there is no need to remember complex patterns.
A personal story:
I remember my first ever hospital-based session; a man was wheeled in who was very withdrawn - seemingly unaware of the world around him. As the rhythm began, I noticed a finger begin to tap - a few minutes later, his whole hand was moving. Then his eyes lifted and he began to watch what was going on. Two hands began to move - and when I handed him a pair of drumsticks and a drum, out came an extremely complex drum solo! We then enjoyed a drum-conversation where we took turns to play - at the end his face was shining with delight, as he whispered ‘thank you very much’. Once the session ended, the nurses said that he hadn’t spoken for 6 years. From that moment on I was convinced of the power of music, and that it’s never too late to drum.
Dr. Jane Bentley * ²
* ² VMC Certified Trainer Lives in Scotland, England
In 2011, he was the first in the world to obtain a PHD (doctoral course) in drum circles and improvisational music.
Not only in the United Kingdom, but around the world such as Europe, the United States, and Canada, we are active mainly in medical and welfare facilities, from children in pediatric wards to elderly people with dementia.