Relocating to Somerset after 16 years at a London public relations agency has opened a whole new career for Leander Hobbs whose current job involves her using music to bring smiles to the faces of people living with dementia.
Leander runs Kiddleydivey sessions in Bridgwater and surrounding areas and visits Avalon Nursing Home in Bridgwater every month with her own special brand of music and movement.
Emma Hill, activities manager at Avalon, said: “Our residents are very enthusiastic about Leander’s visits. She gets them singing along and making music in such a fantastic way that they don’t even realise they’re getting a good work-out at the same time.
“Music sparks reminiscence in people with dementia so, for example, the music quizzes that Leander does for us will have them naming songs and singers from their younger days, and talking about special memories that particular songs might have for them.”
Music of the 40s, 50s and 60s features prominently in the selection Leander plays and sings in the home.
Leander said: “My late dad influenced my musical tastes. He ran a working men’s club in Kent and was always singing popular numbers from back in the day, so I already knew all the words before I got involved with Kiddleydivey.
“Music is such a great leveller, and people with dementia remember songs they’ve loved all their lives even when other memories are fading.
“And they can’t resist moving to the music, so my chair-based exercise class never seems to feel like hard work for any of them.”
Leander always starts and ends her sessions with familiar songs – “Hello Dolly” and the novelty 1940’s song “Mairzy Doats” to being with, and “We’ll Meet Again” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home” to finish the class.
She uses props such as hoops, weighted squeezy balls and pom-poms, to vary the range of physical movements, and also offers music-making using percussion instruments, which encourages people to use their listening skills – looking for and copying the beat – and to work together as a group.
During the school holidays she brings a couple of junior assistants too – her children seven-year-old Fred and 10-year-old William who enjoy helping mum with the props and entertainment and are both a great hit with Avalon’s residents.
And with summer coming up, Leander’s next visit will include a super-sized beach ball and “some good old summery songs to bring the sunshine indoors”.
Kiddleydivey operates across the UK, catering for older adults and those with special needs with specially developed programmes that engage mind and body, improve mobility and strength and promote physiological, emotional and social capabilities.
Their music and movement sessions are part of a packed activities programme hosted at Avalon, which is one of three West Country nursing homes run by award-winning specialist dementia care provider Camelot Care.