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Do sounds of nature improve wellbeing of care home residents

Innovative research by University of Gloucestershire exploring whether the sounds of nature can have a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people in care homes, has won funding of more than £336,000.

Building on previous studies, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in social science, sound art and Cultural Studies will develop and test an intervention using immersive audio technologies in partnership with older people and care homes residents.

University experts and research partners Lillian Faithful Care and the Forest Avon Trust will collaborate with older people to record nature-based soundtracks, such as of waterfalls, birdsong, and sea waves, that will be aired via immersive sound technologies in care homes.

This will enable care home residents to access external sonic environments through state-of-the-art 3D sound experiences, enabling researchers to analyse pre- and post-listening data and carry out a detailed assessment of the significance and benefits of ‘green’ acoustics to mental health and wellbeing.

The two-year study – SAGE, ‘Sound, Environment and Ageing: Bringing the Outside into Care Homes’ – has been awarded a grant worth £336,578 by UK Research and Innovation and the Medical Research Council.

The research is being led by the University’s Professor Abigail Gardner, Dr Alice Goodenough and Dr Philip Reeder, and Dr Wendy Martin from Brunel University London.

Professor Gardner said: “The fact the team brings together expertise from different disciplines enables the project to be innovative in design and simple in application.

“It will make a novel contribution to research into sound and ageing that can be used to develop approaches within institutional health care settings, establishing the base for scaling up the use of therapeutic tools that use natural sounds for improving mental health and wellbeing in older people.

“The project’s motto is ’Bringing the outside in’. It uses immersive audio technology to expand the sonic world for care home residents whose daily environment, routines and health conditions often mean they have little access to natural sound.

“The research will enable a detailed assessment and development of approaches to identifying natural sounds as a tool for enhancing wellbeing in older people in care homes and other settings.”

The advisory board for the research project comprises Professor Sarah Cohen, James and Constance Alsop Chair in Music, University of Liverpool; Matt Fellows, Chief Executive Officer, Age UK Gloucestershire; Professor Tarun Kuruvilla, Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, Jude Rogers, Observer music journalist and freelance journalist and author; two older people from the Brunel Older People Reference group.

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