IT’S never too late to learn a new skill, as Margaret and Mike Stark discovered when they performed in a symphony orchestra on their 59th wedding anniversary.

The couple, both aged 79 from Winton, were part of a pioneering project for people with dementia, run by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI).

After ten weeks of rehearsals, the Bournemouth couple took part in a public performance at the LifeCentre on Winton High Street to showcase their work and to raise awareness about dementia.

Margaret, who is her husband’s carer, said: “He is always so much brighter afterwards. He sometimes gets frustrated because he can’t do all the things he used to do, but this gives him a sense of achievement.”

Michael added: “I’ve never really been musical, even though both my sons play instruments, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.”

Participants were encouraged to sing, clap and play new musical instruments. Two of the performers also stood up to dance together during one of the songs.

Laura Reynolds, a research assistant within BUDI, explained that music works so many different areas of the brain.

“Music can really improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia. Just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean they stop learning. They can still learn new skills.

“It also has a whole host of social benefits too. After a few weeks people were greeting each other like life-long friends!”

Andy Baker, community musician for the BSO, said: “I was astounded by the energy created by this group, it was a privilege to be part of it. I was also amazed that nobody dropped out. We chose songs with repeating patterns so people could always pick it up the next time round if they missed it.”

Songs performed by the orchestra included Moon River, You Are My Sunshine and a number of classics such as the Stark’s favourite, Bolero.

Laura added: “The orchestra proves that dementia isn’t a life sentence. Their achievements show us that people living with dementia are still full of life and creativity, and can still make invaluable contributions to our lives.”

BUDI hopes to secure more funding to continue with the project.

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