'Silent discos' may be all the rage with Gen Y, but a new group of groovers is taking to the headphones in a groundbreaking program that is awakening long lost memories.

Feros Care has established silent discos - a form of music therapy - across its Byron Bay, Bangalow and Wommin Bay villages and it has had incredible results, particularly for those with dementia.

Feros Care Positive Living Coordinator Jennie Hewitt said residents were given a headset, which played popular music from their past, helping to tap into areas of their brain that other therapies could not.

“We have residents who have not spoken a full sentence in years, but when the music comes on, they start to sing the words and it brings up memories for them they otherwise can not seem to access,” she said.

Instead of coming to an aged care village and being nursed, we want to offer residents the opportunity to continue to try things they have never done before

Music is increasingly being used in memory research, especially in the aged care sector. Research suggests the link between music and memory is particularly strong because it has the ability to activate large areas of the brain, including the auditory, motor and emotional regions.  

The motor areas process the rhythm, the auditory areas the sound, while the limbic regions are associated with the emotions.

“With the change in behavior and sudden enjoyment we see once the music starts, there is definitely something going on there,” said Ms Hewitt.

“It does not take much for the residents to be up on their feet and dancing like they did when they were younger. Even those who can no longer walk sometimes stand-up out of their wheelchairs and get into the movement – it is just amazing.”

Ms Hewitt said, interestingly, the therapy did not end when the music stopped.“The greatest impact we have seen is on the people who are not able to communicate ordinarily," said Ms Hewitt.

"There were two residents who, after the therapy, were able to talk for the rest of the day.

"There were two residents who, after the therapy, were able to talk for the rest of the day.

"We do also find their general mood is elevated for around two days after the sessions.

“During this time, we have been thrilled to see family come in and have the opportunity to talk to their parent for the first time in ages, after the  music therapy.”

Ms Hewitt said the 'silent disco' form of therapy was very different to playing music in an open space.

“There are no distractions for them – all they hear is their music and the voice of the facilitator, they become quite personally invested in it," she said.

"What is also amazing is even though they can not hear or speak to each other, they end up doing things in unison, so you get this group atmosphere and the whole room is dancing."

Ms Hewitt said the ‘silent disco’ sessions were just one part of the ‘grow bold’ culture at Feros Care.

“What we are trying to do is find all sorts of avenues for residents to experience something new during this chapter in their lives," she said.

"Instead of coming to an aged care village and being nursed, we want to offer residents the opportunity to continue to try things they have never done before.”