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Making online singing activities more dementia inclusive

­Making online singing activities dementia inclusive

There are many things that can make an online singing activity more accessible for people with dementia.  It is really important to recognise that everyone with dementia is different and therefore it is important to spend time before undertaking the activity to establish what the needs of each individual are.

Technology

The technology itself can be a barrier for some people so more preparation may be needed to enable people to participate.

Funding

Do people have access to the necessary technology?  There may be funding available.  Different types of funding opportunities for hardware and software are periodically available from:

Feeling confident with the technology

Invite people along to the session before to go over the technical side of things and gain confidence with the platform. 

Get to know individuals offline as much as you can (on the phone if social distancing is in place).

Explain the process for joining and taking part in the online activity: write it down / use visuals and pictures.

Discuss concerns.

Practise joining the online platform one-to-one until comfortable and confident.

There may also be organisations that can help locally and give people some technical support in advance of going online.

Create ‘how to’ guides about getting online using different platforms which are personalised, printed out and sent to participants well in advance of online sessions.  These can then be run through during a phone call and ahead of a one-to-one practice.

Making Music have produced a guide to using the online meeting platform Zoom for online choir rehearsals: https://www.makingmusic.org.uk/resource/zoom-online-rehearsals-vocal

Community Makers is a network of community groups that support people affected by dementia.  There are guides about technical solutions and case studies of singing groups that have moved online: https://communitymakers.co/home/

Online activity options

Recorded “live” event ideas

Record a session, edit it and upload to YouTube, or send to people on a DVD.  This way people can join in in their own time.  You can include warm-ups as well as songs, and could add subtitles to increase accessibility.  This method also allows people to replay and revisit sessions.

Living singing event ideas

Offer a ‘cabaret style’ session allowing people to sing solo or in duet with their partner / family member / carer.

Build in opportunities for people to share songs with and for each other, giving people a chance to provide a musical offering for the group.

Give people a chance to hear each other through arranging a ceilidh-style session where everyone who wants to can contribute a solo item – a song, a poem, or a story.

Have themes each time and encourage people to dress up, have appropriate Zoom backgrounds and suggest songs and music related to the theme.  Employing themed sessions and allowing for preparation by participants in advance can build anticipation.

During the activity

Ensure there is time for ‘digital hellos’ to establish personal connections.

Build in plenty of social time to sessions, for people to remain feeling connected to each other.

Support carers ahead of online activities too, especially if they are going to be supporting the person with dementia side by side during the activity.

Sending song sheets, recordings / videos of songs and accompaniments can help (both in advance and between sessions) to enable people to participate.

It can be helpful to think about clear visual cues, for example clear hand signals.  Using physical objects and visual cues will ease communication.  

Ensure that participants are muted and understand why this is necessary.  This could be talked about prior to going online.

If using the platform Zoom, Speaker View can be helpful when giving instructions as it means people can see the person who is speaking.  When singing people may prefer the Gallery View so they can see other people in the group.

The use of the chat box for questions and comments during the session may be helpful for some people so it is worth checking that people know how to use this if appropriate.It is useful to have someone to provide technical support on a Video Conference call.  They can help monitor the chat box and check in with people regularly.

After the activity

Regularly and actively seek feedback from the group about how they are enjoying the sessions.  Ask for suggestions for ways to improve them and ensure that you put those suggestions into practice.

 
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