Dementia & Silent Discos
Activity staff are always looking for fun, meaningful activities to add to their repitoire. Today we're going to talk about a new craze that has been sweeping the senior living sector, and for good reason!
You may have heard of Silent Disco clubs or seen Silent Disco walking tours. From the outside, it looks like you’ve stumbled upon a bunch of crazy people dancing in complete silence. When in fact, during these events, people wear wireless headphones and listen to music broadcast into their headset via a radio transmitter, rather than a speaker.
An Interview with Mark Sweeting
Mark Sweeting, fitness instructor and owner of Sweet Result Fitness, is proving that silent discos aren’t just for youths and tourists. A year and a half ago, Mark began putting on silent discos in care homes and it’s become quite a hit. We sat down with Mark to get the scoop.
What inspired you to start silent discos in care homes?
I got my inspiration from seeing a video on Facebook some time ago of someone doing a silent disco trial with dementia patients in Australia. At the time, I was already teaching silent disco yoga classes. I thought if I’ve already got the equipment, why don’t I try it in the care home? It would be so easy for me to take fitness and music to the care homes in the neighbourhood where I live. I ran the idea by some of my friends who used to work in care homes. They thought it would be amazing and helped organize those first few trial runs. The feedback was incredible. That is how it all started, really.
The first few silent discos you did, what was that experience like?
The first time, the experience was just electric. I knew a bit about dementia and music therapy, so I selected a playlist with music to help trigger memories or bring someone back to a certain time in their life. You know, songs by people like Frank Sinatra and Elvis. The singing and engagement from the residents were absolutely incredible. When you see someone with dementia come into the situation completely unengaged and not responsive, and by the end of the session they’re tapping and singing along, it’s pretty touching.
Can you walk me through what happens during one of your silent discos?
I usually arrive 20 minutes ahead of time to set up. Apart from music, I bring in different elements to get people moving and motivated. There’s lights, funky glasses, boas, glowsticks, scarves, and various props like that. I've got 6 different playlists now. They each work a bit differently. I also take song requests from the care homes ahead of time. I can tailor it to what they need or to what age group most of their residents are in. If its someone’s birthday we make sure to celebrate that.
Once the participants arrive, I hand out the headsets and make sure everyone is happy with the volume, as it can be adjusted for each individual. I give a little introduction speech and then we start the party. Their headsets just have one channel so we all listen to the same songs. I wear a headset mic so that I can speak to them and emcee the experience. The silent discos last about an hour and I like to stay and have a cup of tea with people afterwards while I pack up.
How many silent discos have you done now and where do you travel to?
I’ve been to around 300 care homes in the area, which is amazing. I will travel within a 1.5-hour radius of my home in Gloucestershire, UK.
What else do you want people to know about your silent discos?
I also do silent discos with people with autism and other learning difficulties. Those have gone over really well. I can do silent discos for corporate events, private parties, or activity centres, too. Everyone loves a silent disco!
What has been the most rewarding part of this venture for you?
It’s just amazing to reach these groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to experience something like a silent disco out in the community. It’s really rewarding to be able to bring it to them and make it a party in their own environment.
If someone is interested in booking you for their facility, how would you like them to reach you?
I’m happy to be contacted by