'It was marvellous. We are thrilled to have been a part of it'
Richard & Nelly
Hello, I'm Cheryl Beer, the Founder and Coordinator of Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio Station. That's me, in-between two of our Life Story Volunteers, Richard & Nelly, at one of our Digital Storytelling Events in Plas Y Mor Care Home. Nelly has sadly since, passed away. Their story is such a beautiful celebration of their life and love. You can see their film on our Life Story Page.
Sound Memories began in 2014 as 'Postcards from Louie' a Storytelling & Dementia Research Assignment for my MA Drama. By collaborating with Louise Davies, a 92 year old woman living in a dementia friendly care home in Llanelli, her family and carers, we created a book and talking book as a dementia friendly memory resource for her and for others. Postcards from Louie became a storytelling trail for primary school children and is housed online at the People's Collection Wales in Welsh Language. It is also part of the RNIB National Talking Book Resource.
Following on from this work, I was invited to be part of 'A Better Life' research project funded by Joseph Rowntree in collaboration with Swansea Uni & Social Services, working in Care Homes to create 2 further resources with older people. For this body of work, I was awarded an Outstanding Contribution to MA Drama from the University of South Wales in 2014 and a Gold National Care Award in 2015. Since then, my research has grown into a beautiful community resource: Sound Memories Radio.
Our online Radio Station has @ 500 listeners and we have had nearly 50 older people volunteering. By older people, we mean people over 50 years of age, but actually, most of our volunteers have been over 70, the oldest being 100 and a very proud owner of her letter from the Queen.
The radio station enables and empowers us, as older people, to create our own dementia friendly resources, promoting memory in a friendly and compassionate way. We hold Digital story events in local community settings, inviting the public to celebrate our stories with us, informing and educating through action and example. I have also represented Sound Memories at National Events, Universities, Community Groups & Schools to speak about our work. This deconstructs stereotypes and inspires people to think more inclusively about working alongside and in partnership with older people in devising Health & Social Care Policy and Practice.
Are you wondering how it works?
As Coordinator, I recruit, visit and record interviews with older volunteers. We then edit these into digital stories with old and new photographs, sharing them here.
Sometimes, I train other people to do the interviewing. This is usually older people themselves, their family &/or carers. I have also trained primary school children to collate oral history from their local older community and edit digital films, housed here.
In the later stages of dementia, listening to speech can be difficult, so I also work with local farmers to record environmental sound maps as a narrative for identity and place. We have just started welcoming new sound map volunteers who send sound recordings for our Environmental Sound Map. You can find out more on the Sound Map Page.
We are a dementia friendly station in that the content and sound levels of all our material are tested by our user groups to ensure that we are taking health implications into consideration with regard to sound, visuals, concentration time, longevity etc so that we are totally inclusive. Unlike other stations, our stories stay here at the website as our research has showed that people draw great comfort from re-visiting them. People living with dementia are given every support to take part in the making of their own stories for the station, along with their family &/or carers, friends and neighbours.
How are we funded?
Sound Memories is a Not For Profit Organisation. Our radio station is FREE to visit but if you would like to make a donation to help with running costs, you can do so at our Gofundme Page. We rely on your kind donations and our partner projects. If you would like to partner with us, please visit here.
How do you make decisions?
Sound Memories holds Digital Storytelling Afternoons in the Care Homes to collate feedback for ongoing evaluation, always with tea and cakes because everything we do is good fun and we also have meetings to discuss our aims and objectives. Sometimes this will be in a group or a number individuals are visited one to one as they are not well enough to attend a meeting. This ensures they are still included.
Currently, we are investigating the possibility of a Silent Nature pilot project with people who are living with end stage dementia and the additional complication of a condition known as hyperacusis (which is a common symptom) where sound painfully distorts. You can read about the work here.
Dementia currently effects 850.000 people in the UK. (reference) There is a growing need to create innovative, compassionate and meaningful ways of supporting people to live better lives.
Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to make a difference with us.
Your generous donations & fundraising enables us to carry on our ground breaking work through Sound Memories. Thank you for supporting our work.