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Cardiff graduate develops dementia music app

11 September 2018

Eirlys and her carer

A great-grandmother who has dementia ‘returns home to Wales’ when she uses an app – developed by a Cardiff graduate - which allows her to create music.

Eirlys Davies, 89, left Ystradgynlais in 1950, aged just 19, when her husband moved to Bath for work.

Her memories of Wales come alive when she uses the MindHarp™ – a tool which helps people with dementia engage with music and interact with people around them.

Stewart Redpath, who studied English and Linguistics at Cardiff University, and friend Mark Smulian created the Lydian MindHarp - a tool which allows non-musicians to create music.

When Stewart’s son, Kieran, worked on a course project for the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), Stewart began to think of ways music could be applied to help the condition.

Stewart and Mark, who lost his father to dementia, worked on the MindHarp for nearly four years.

They visited the Peggy Dodd Centre in Bath, which supports Eirlys Davies and other people with memory loss, on a voluntary basis for seven months to develop the app with carers and clients.

The MindHarp, which can be played on an iPad, enables users to enjoy making music without the fear of ‘getting it right.’  

Eirlys’s daughter, Jen Gard, said: “She clearly enjoys using the MindHarp and it stirs up great memories for her. We will chat sometimes and she will tell me that she used a ‘machine’ to make music. It’s something which has an impact.”

Pete Conway, a Bristol-based Group Coordinator with the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Using the MindHarp at our groups has led to some great interactions and really interesting conversations The MindHarp is not only about music, it can be used to support a wide-range of stimulating activities. Our experience of using the MindHarp has been that it is easy to use, without the need to be a skilled musician and most of all good fun!”

The MindHarp includes eight different coloured buttons, of carefully composed musical sounds. It also includes atmospheric and associative sounds, such as a horse trotting or bells ringing. Several buttons can be pressed at once and it can be played alone or as part of a group – providing an endless range of music.

A report from the Commission on Dementia and Music, in partnership with the independent think tank International Longevity Centre (ILC), has found evidence that music therapy also helps reduce behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia – such as agitation, depression, delusions and aggression.

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