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tea and musical score
tea and musical score

Harris Voluntary Service

The CalMac Community Fund was established to make a difference to the communities in which CalMac operates, by supporting local groups to tackle local needs. The Fund aims to help people connect with services and each other, especially around the following key themes: reducing social isolation; improving health and wellbeing; addressing issues related to poverty, especially in relation to the cost-of-living crisis; and local and community transport.

Impact Story: Harris Voluntary Service

Harris Voluntary Service works in partnership with Alzheimer’s Scotland to deliver safe, professional, support to individuals living with dementia and their careers.

They do this through the Musical Memories Project, which received £2,000 in funding from CalMac to cover the project's running costs which meet once a month to provide an afternoon of music and chat over a cup of tea. 

The project is open to people living with dementia and their carers primarily, but also for anybody with a long-term condition or living on their own. 

The project was predominantly held online during 2022 due to several Covid outbreaks in the community to ensure they could continue supporting vulnerable individuals and their carers to access Musical Memories. 

Online sessions have enabled some individuals connected to the islands but no longer live there to reconnect with old friends, which was noted as a significant advantage of a digital service.

The project invited a wide variety of performers to join them from the islands of Lewis and Uist and even as far as Glasgow. This included English and Gaelic singers, guitarists, and accordionists. Eight individual performers attended the digital sessions (some appearing more than once).

Sessions started with a chat, and then during the performances, they sometimes got the history or story behind a song, requests from the audience, and even performances from attendees. The project reported it was heart-warming to see somebody living with dementia sing a song without the words in front of them. 

A representative from Alzheimer Scotland would also be present to provide valuable advice regarding engagement for people living with dementia. 

The project had 220 attendances at the monthly sessions over the year.

One residential care home said, "The residents thoroughly enjoyed the session with dancing and great interaction. It also gave them a great lift in mood that day. This online social outlet is important, and we hope the group continues."

In November 2022, they hosted an in-person concert for the first time since the pandemic. It was attended by the wider local community to raise awareness and to enable more interaction between people living with dementia and their carers. Nine individual performers at the concert ranged from school children to performers over 80 years old! 

The project has confirmed that further funding has been secured to continue Musical Memories throughout 2023/24.

Individual Case Study: Jack and Dorothy

Jack* has been caring for his elderly wife, Dorothy*, who has been living with dementia for several years. It's a full-time job and, like all caring roles, can be stressful and tiring. They got involved with Musical Memories through Western Isles Community Care Forum, a partner in Musical Memories that support unpaid carers. Jack said he and his wife look forward to the monthly sessions as their calendar can often be empty. 

Dorothy has met friends from her youth over the Zoom sessions, and it was terrific for all present to discover they instantly recognised each other despite them living with dementia. The joy it brought to them was a delight to see. 

Jack and his wife both enjoy music and have regularly entertained the group by singing and playing musical instruments and have said they thoroughly enjoyed participating. 

Dorothy feels involved, and the music brings her to life. She remains upbeat after the Musical Memories sessions, which is good for her well-being and eases the stress for Jack to see his wife happy. Being allowed to participate has encouraged Jack to learn new tunes and is suitable for his mental stimulation. He said, "Playing music gives me a focus.". During the winter months, they went to the mainland to stay with their family but could still join in the Musical Memories as it was still being delivered digitally via Zoom. 

This allowed them to remain in contact with friends back home, hear what was happening, enjoy the music, and participate.

Musical Memories are an essential feature of their lives, and they look forward to attending more sessions.

*Names have been changed