Silver Memories founder has made a big Impact

Silver memories General Manager Gary Thorpe makes Impact 25 list

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MEMORY MAKER: Silver Memories founder and general manager Gary Thorpe has been named in the Pro Bono Impact 25 list.

MEMORY MAKER: Silver Memories founder and general manager Gary Thorpe has been named in the Pro Bono Impact 25 list.

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Gary Thorpe's efforts to help aged care residents remember have not been forgotten.

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Gary Thorpe founded Silver Memories in the hope of making a difference - he never dreamed its impact would be so big.

The Brisbane based broadcasting veteran founded the continuous broadcasting service for seniors in aged care homes back in 2007.

The service has grown exponentially since then, and this year, Gary has been named in Pro Bono's Impact 25 list in acknowledgement of his efforts.

A total of 450 changemakers were nominated for the award, with 150 nominees shortlisted and more than 21,000 people voting to determine this year's 25 winners.

"There were so many other people who were nominated for doing terrific things all around the country," Gary said.

"I was very, very surprised I got into the 25. Indeed it's an honour."

Gary came up with the idea for the service after his neighbour Jean had a stroke.

"I really noticed she had started to fade, there didn't seem to be anything engaging her.

"When I was talking to Jean, I asked 'what would you like to have, ideally?'

"She said I'd love to hear the music I heard when I was growing up, when I was courting, when I married by husband.

"I said what if there was a radio station that played the music of that period? She said that would be wonderful."

The service broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is completely ad and news free. Broadcasts are transmitted into the television sets of nursing homes which have subscribed to the service - in both private rooms and common areas.

Gary was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2011 to research the use of music in the management of dementia and related issues.

A study commissioned by the federal health department also found listening to the station reduced depression and anxiety in residents and increased overall feelings of wellbeing.

The station plays music from the 1940s, '50s, '60s and into the '70s. Gary said it was based around the idea of reminiscence therapy, and that music was a powerful tool when it came to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

"One of the concepts of reminiscence therapy is the music you like in your early teens seems to set your tastes for your entire life. That's the music that's embedded in the brain.

"Music is quite wonderful in that it registers in multiple parts of the brain. Even if you've had a stroke like Jean did, or if you have dementia, there will usually be a site in the brain that registers those songs."

The broadcasts are also complimented with a selection of thousands of images aimed at triggering happy memories and generating discussion between residents and staff.

"We have some beautiful images which cover an extraordinary range - from beautiful landscapes, to images of appliances which were popular when they were younger, to old movie stars.

"They are very effective, often times the resident will see an image and be reminded of times they went on holiday there, or something like that.

"(The idea is) to take them out of the confines of the aged care homes themselves."

Gary said when he conceived the station, he initially only intended it for people in Brisbane. It quickly became apparent there was a demand from aged care residents and providers around the state, and nation. He said he had even received enquiries from aged care homes as far afield as Canada.

In addition to extending its radio service on a national basis, Silver Memories has also branched out into live performances in the south east Queensland area. Gary said plans were already well underway to launch travelling roadshows in NSW and Victoria later this year.

The radio service is also now available to people who are still living at home, following the launch of a Silver Memories app around 12 months ago.

"We asked developers to design it for 90-year-olds, not nine-year-olds. It's got big buttons and symbols for people with poor eyesight and is easy to navigate."

For more information on Silver Memories, including how to subscribe or download the app, call (07) 3847-1717 or click HERE.

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