How Care Home Residents Are Beating the Winter Blues

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Guest contribution by Hannah McMahon

Winter can be a difficult period for everyone, especially for those who no longer are together with their families, like home care residents. However, despite the challenges brought by shorter days and lower temperatures, care home residents are innovative enough to find new methods to keep themselves busy. For example, they discovered that music can do miracles and help them patiently wait for warmer days. You would be surprised how music proved to be a potent weapon in their fight against winter doldrums.

The golden oldies are helping care home residents beat the winter blues. It’s well known that music can lift spirits, and research even shows that it can support good mental health. According to recent research by Bupa:

  • Eight in 10 UK adults say music is their go-to for enhancing their mood
  • Two-thirds of Brits say music is integral to their personal health and wellness journey
  • Three-quarters of UK adults say music has helped them through stressful times in their life 

So with Blue Monday fast approaching, residents at Dean Wood Bupa Care Home in Brighton have compiled a playlist of their favorite feel-good songs. From Doris Day to Dolly Parton, Dean Wood’s playlist shows how many forms of music can ignite joy – and the important role it plays in helping to unite us.  

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Dean Wood Bupa Care Home’s top 10 feelgood songs:

  1. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
  2. Madame Butterfly – Maria Callas
  3. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head – B. J. Thomas
  4. On the Beautiful Blue Danube – Johann Strauss II
  5. Stuck in the Middle with You – Stealers Wheel
  6. The Locomotion – Little Eva
  7. Que Sera Sera – Doris Day
  8. Yesterday When I Was Young – Dusty Springfield
  9. Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas
  10. A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square – Vera Lynn

Two of the home’s residents, Dina and Dorothy – both aged 100 – are big music fans, but the songs that bring them the most joy are very different. Dina loves nothing more than dancing to Dolly Parton’s hits, Jolene and 9 to 5, whereas Dorothy’s feelgood song is the waltz piece On the Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II. 

Some classics feature on Dean Wood’s list, including 89-year-old Ted’s favorite, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head by B. J. Thomas, 80-year-old Val’s choice, Madame Butterfly by Maria Callas, and The Locomotion by Little Eva, chosen by Babs, aged 86. 

Resident Karen, 59, who lives with dementia, knows this all too well. Karen has a wide taste in music, including everything from heavy metal to Elvis – however, she crowned Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle with You as her favorite feel-good song.

Julie Mullen, Resident Experience Manager at Bupa Dean Wood Care Home, champions music as an integral part of life at the home, as she loves seeing how music can help bring residents out of their shells and foster connection. 

Music can be a moving outlet for us all, but especially for those living with dementia. Speaking about the effect of the home’s regular music therapy sessions, Julie explains: “People who may not have engaged with activities all week will attend one of our music sessions and end up smiling back at you”. 

Along with hosting local entertainers three times a week for musical performances, Dean Wood has its own musical therapy club, run by activities coordinator, Jack Redhead. Jack brings expertise from his master’s degree in music, encouraging all residents to take an instrument and join in as he plays songs on his guitar.  

Once a fortnight, a choir visits to sing with residents, which always goes down well. Family members of the residents are welcome to enjoy the choir’s performances together with their loved ones. 

Benefits of music for those with dementia 

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Fran Vandelli, Dementia Lead for Bupa Care Services, shares why singing and music is so beneficial for all of us as we age – and especially for those living with dementia. 

Music can be incredibly powerful if used in the right way and can provide an important outlet for expression, particularly for those living with conditions, like dementia, that can affect communication skills. 

Along with reducing agitation and anxiety, music can help to engage us as we age, encouraging us to form and strengthen bonds with those around us, which can be really useful at times if emotions feel more difficult to manage or process. Music doesn’t just provide social benefits, it can also: 

  • Give a source of stimulation
  • Help improve posture and coordination
  • Help improve lung function
  • Help keep your brain active
  • Create a soothing environment
  • In some cases, offer a safe alternative to medication for the relief of anxiety
  • Help process feelings 
  • Boost confidence and provide a sense of achievement 
  • Support memory recall 
  • Help retain speech and language skills 
  • Boost morale for both the person living with dementia and their caregivers 


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