Inspired by Dutch Counterparts, London based Senior's Housing and Care Trust Encourages Outdoor Musical Engagement

The Dutch approach to elder care gave Chris Barber, Engagement Manager for London-based senior housing association Central and Cecil Housing Trust (C&C), and his team the inspiration to create sensory gardens in four care homes the trust manages in London.

Dutch innovation in caring for elderly people and those with dementia have seen the country create ‘Dementia Villages,’ which help residents stay as independent as possible. The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in dementia care and has also embraced sensory gardens with an array of stimuli, including musical instruments. Chris saw these gardens and realized C&C should include opportunities for residents to create music.

The aim was to bring Music Therapy to the residents in the care homes, and by working with the charity, Live Music Now, residents are today reaping the benefits of creating music.

It wasn’t just the music that drew Chris to Percussion Play’s range of instruments. The bright colors and aesthetics of the Calypso Chimes and Petal Drums were chosen to bring the garden to life, and it was important the garden didn’t look like a children’s play area. The instruments are designed to be inclusive, and when they were installed in the summer, the residents could get outside, be creative and start making music.

Some of the residents at C&C’s care homes have dementia, and carers have been seeing the benefits the musical instruments have had on their physical and mental well-being. One resident who was a musician is regularly engaging with the instruments outside and enjoying the on-site entertainment.

Chris says, “It’s wonderful to see our residents discover the musical instruments in an outside setting. By having activities outside of the care homes, the residents can be stimulated by the nature around them and not just be inhibited by the four walls of their living accommodation. Our music therapy sessions are helping residents, both with dementia and without, to exercise their brains in different ways, engage in physical activity, and importantly have fun!”

By working with a garden designer, Chris and his team were able to create beautiful outdoor spaces at the care homes, with interactive elements for residents to discover. Along with the instruments, they added wind chimes, scented flowers, and water features to help residents enjoy and live fulfilled lives.