A/Prof. Helen English (SOCI); Prof. Frini Karayanidis (PSYCH) and Dr Michelle Kelly (PSYCH) lead a Creative Ageing Research group at the University of Newcastle. They are committed to discovering how creative activities enhance life experience as we age. They aim to uncover the key aspects of creative activities that deliver benefits, the ideal duration of creative activities for maximum benefits and the subsequent duration of these benefits.
In 2020 the group planned to run a 30-week songwriting program in aged-care facilities. COVID-19 prevented this plan. However, a group of students worked to transfer the songwriting program fully online and with ethics approval, they ran a 6-week songwriting program in October-November 2020 in partnership with NovaCare, Newcastle. As a pilot, their work was crucial to developing the full program for 2021.
The team of students comprised Cassie Danckert, PHD student (jointly supervised SOCI and PSYCH); Jarrod Hayes (MPsych); Paige Rosekilly (MPsych); Zachary Donoghoe (BMus Hons) and Madison Anderson (BMus).
They delivered the program via zoom, using the zoom breakout function to brainstorm the song lyrics and music with participants in smaller groups. The 10 participants came from Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and joined via zoom either from their homes or a community space at Merewether.
Workshops began with games, and listening to songs participants had nominated before the session. In breakout sessions led by music students, participants first chose a song theme, then wrote a chorus and verses. The facilitators pre-prepared some chord sequences for them to choose from, and they also chose the instrumentation. Each group composed the lyrics and music for one song, resulting in 2 songs.
This pilot program was very successful. Some participants were surprised at being able to write a song and others commented on how they now listen to music differently as the following quotes show:
I was actually surprised that we wrote a song so quickly, but we just had so much fun doing it. Now when I’m listening to music I actually listen to some of the words more to see if it was as good as our song. K, female participant at Novacare
It's brought me to understand music a lot better than I have before. R, male participant at Novacare