AGE UK staff members have been creating musical memories for those who they support through new singing sessions designed to help people escape loneliness and stimulate their brains.
Starting only a few months ago, the Musical Memories Singing Group takes place every Thursday from 1pm to 3pm and is open to anyone over the age of 50.
The group is fully accessible to those with dementia, with participants singing for one hour before spending their second hour enjoying biscuits, hot drinks and a good chat with friends.
Originally hosted at Emmanuel Church, the group have now moved to the Age UK headquarters on Queen Street which has gone through an extensive redesign to make it more accommodating for users.
James Higginbottom, communications and fundraising manager for Age UK Barnsley, told the Chronicle: “This makes a big difference to the lives of older people.
“It all started by accident really - we found out one of our employees was a whizz on the piano and it came from there.
“We’ve redone the entire headquarters - it’s state of the art with a lot of space ready for new activities.”
Groups like these have grown in popularity recently, popping up across the country and being noted as being particularly helpful for people with dementia.
NHS studies have supported this, discovering that an active involvement in musical activities like singing groups can vastly improve a patient’s memory and help them to reconnect with those around them.
Importantly however, it’s also fun - and allows people to gather together over their favourite songs whether they have dementia or not.
“I love it,” said Geoff Toone, one of the attendees of the Barnsley group.
“I don’t get out a lot so it’s really nice to have this so I can have someone to talk to.”
Geoff found the group thanks to his daughter, Sarah Toone, who works as part of the charity’s shopping service.
She added: “I’m part of the Barnsley Singers group so it felt right to join in.
“People really enjoy it, there’s a lot of opportunities to have fun.”
Many of the current members have been referred through the charity’s social inclusion project, which suggests activities people would like to take part in.
These can range anywhere from knitting groups to woodworking skill sessions - with the charity supplying transport for anyone who struggles to access the services.
Members of the singing group enjoy a variety of tunes, some from their childhood and some completely new, with a few wildcards sprinkled throughout.
Debby Bunn, chief executive of Age UK Barnsley, added: “Our Musical Memories Singing Group is a wonderful addition to the services we provide for older people in Barnsley.
“It gives older people the chance to have a good old sing-a-long, let their hair down and enjoy some musical reminiscence.
“This is fully accessible for clients with dementia but we do want to stress that it is open to everyone aged 50 and over in Barnsley.
“We’d urge everyone to come along and get involved you’ll have a wonderful time.”