A chance meeting between an occupational therapist at Kingsway Care Centre and a group of Dundee musicians has proved a perfect match for a new patient wellbeing project.
Folk-rockers The Doolichters gained popularity over lockdown for their “daft dancing” YouTube videos and original songs about growing up in post-war Dundee, such as This Is Meh Scheme.
Now, they’ve teamed up with Kingsway Care Centre’s lead OT Donna Mackintosh to help create the sensory boxes, which have proved a hit with patients in the over-65s acute psychiatric care facility.
The unlikely partnership began by chance, when Donna met The Doolichters through the Dundee Rep Community Theatre.
Donna had begun investigating the use of sensory boxes in drama with patients with dementia in 2020.
She knew already that music can often be used to aid mental wellbeing, specifically for dementia patients.
She approached the band and a collaboration was born. Doolichter Ian Kennedy worked with Donna to adapt six music videos to a DVD so they could be screened in the NHS Tayside facility.
What is in a ‘memory box’?
Donna explains: “The aim of the project was to make a sensory reminiscence box for each song on the DVD. Each box would include objects mentioned in the songs, lyric handouts, photos and quiz sheets.
“Not all clients would be able to understand a DVD on its own, due to the impact of their illness.”
Using the five senses as a basis, the occupational therapy team filled the boxes with objects. These included photos of places mentioned in the songs, soap to touch and smell, and even food or sweets mentioned for patients to taste.
The result was better than Donna could have imagined, with “immeasurable” memories triggered by The Doolichters’ verses.
Patients reportedly reminisced and shared stories of Dundee with one another – even those who had not previously engaged with any activities.
“The spontaneous babble of conversation amongst clients and hearing their laughter was so heartwarming,” Donna says.
“It really brought home just how much enjoyment this project has brought to patients and staff involved in their care.
“And I would like to acknowledge the amazing support I have had from The Doolichters, who have provided all their services for free and donated the CDs and DVDs for use in the project.”
Band giving back to beloved Dundee
As for the Doolichters, the sensory reminiscence project has been an unexpected but welcome musical journey.
“We are delighted to be part of Donna’s project,” says frontman Ian Kennedy, 68. “We find our music it seems to resonate with Dundonians of a ‘particular age’. And that’s something Donna has clearly tapped into.”
“Our main aim was to promote the city in a more positive way and Donna’s work certainly does that.”