Australia launches biggest global music therapy trial

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University of Melbourne researchers will work with Bupa aged care home residents and their carers to undertake the world’s largest music therapy trial focused on depression in those with dementia.

The three-year study involves 500 participants from 38 aged care homes across Australia. Bupa’s Berwick and Greensborough homes will be followed by an additional eight of the company's homes.

An additional 1000 participants will be recruited from five countries in Europe

University of Melbourne Head of Music Therapy Felicity Baker said the project has been funded through a $1 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

“Those involved in the Music Interventions for Depression and Dementia in the Elderly (MIDDEL) study will receive group music therapy, recreational choir singing, a combination of both group and choir therapy or their usual in-home care,” said Professor Baker.

“The power of this type of therapy is carefully selected music that can stimulate a recall of memories associated with happy times, known as the reminiscence bump.

“These memories might include a first love, a wedding, a graduation or any key milestones from their life. Music can really help promote a sense of identity, a sense of self-esteem.”

Bupa Head of Dementia Services Margaret Ryan said she hopes the findings will be positive for residents, their carers and their families.

“Residents can request songs or styles of music. Having a choice in music has ensured that the musical intervention therapy is centred on our residents’ immediate enjoyment, but will also result in flow on effect for their enjoyment of life generally in the care home by giving them a sense of comfort, inclusion and emotional wellbeing,” she said.