Creative workshops with the elderly

The Netherlands has an ageing population. Older people stay healthy and active for much longer, in music as well, and research shows that music has positive effects on staying healthy and active for longer. One of the forms in which older people can make music is the creative music workshop: one or more musical sessions in which you work towards a new musical end result together.


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Creative music workshops in general have been studied extensively, but creative music workshops with elderly people were new for both the elderly participants and the workshop leaders at the start of this project. In this exploratory research the researchers looked at the features of a creative music workshop for elderly people, and which competences a leader of creative workshops needed. It turned out that in addition to being a workshop leader, an appeal was also made on his/her role as a musician, improviser, conductor, composer, but also on their role as teacher, animator, organiser and producer. Simultaneously researchers looked for an answer to the question of what participation in a creative music workshop meant for an older person and also what participation meant for the care home.

In the spring of 2011 a number of pilot workshops was organised in various

Care and activity centres in the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. On various locations in Groningen (Pelsterhof, Veldspaat), Bolsward (Huylckenstein), Wommels (Nij Stapert) and Dwingeloo (De Weyert) workshops took place in which residents of the centres and elderly people from the neighbourhood made music together in a two hour session, where they played music and sang. It was a one-time workshop. Participants met each other for the first time during the session and some of them had never been involved in music before. Often carers and volunteers joined in as well. Besides making music, the participants were also told about the background of the instruments. During the course of the workshop they created a piece of music together.

Photo: Workshop in care centre Huylckenstein in Bolsward


In Haren (De Dilgt) and Franeker (Saxenoord) a series of workshops took place. A regular group of residents came together once a week for the duration of five weeks. This group also sang and played musical instruments such as percussion, organ, accordion and keyboards. Sometimes the participants brought their own instruments and wrote lyrics. During the last session they worked towards a result that could be performed in front of the other residents of the centre. A number of students of the Prince Claus Conservatoire played along on trumpet, bass and piano.

Photo: Workshop in care home Saxenoord

The reactions of the participants were largely positive. Clearly there is a need for creative music workshops in care centres for the elderly. Below a few reactions:

Mrs. Van der Molen: "When I make music I forget all my worries for a moment. I used to perform in plays, it's very nice to be doing something like that again."

Mr. Slijver: "I have been playing the organ by myself for years, and I enjoy doing this with others around me for a change. What it sounds like is not that important."

Mrs. De Vries: "I live in the neighbourhood. This workshop gives me the opportunity to meet people like myself. And I like trying out new things."

This was not a stand-alone project. The research group also researched the practice of creative music workshops with the elderly in a different way at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. In addition there was the project "Rhythm for Life", set up by the Royal College of Music, London, which also conducted research into creative music workshops for the elderly. The three projects were closely linked and there was frequent contact about the achieved results.

Involved in the project were: Jaap Oosterwijk (workshop leader), Karolien Dons (researcher), Peter Mak (conceptual framework), Evert Bisschop Boele (leader research strand Healthy Ageing through Music & the Arts), Renee Jonker (Royal Conservatoire The Hague), Rosie Burt-Perkins (Royal College of Music, London).
Rhythm for Life​


Jaap Oosterwijk

Jaap Oosterwijk (1957) studied trumpet at the MPA in Leeuwarden, after which he worked as a trumpet player for a.o. the Frysk Orkest, big bands and Tryater. In the same period he worked as a trumpet teacher for music schools and the Leeuwarden conservatoire. In addition he was also a conductor for choirs and music groups. Meanwhile he worked on developing his interest in the stage and in this way he also became a singer and actor (for Tryater and Keunstwurk), a stand-up comedian and a presenter. Oosterwijk composed a great number of songs for children, various pieces for choirs and music for the stage. He also wrote scripts and made programmes for school radio and TV (Omrop Fryslân), various shows for children and educational music programmes (Villa Aria with Frysk orkest, Opus Kriebel with NNO). At the CvK a7 in Heerenveen he further studied methodology and didactics and together with Immie Klaver he developed the instrumental orientation 'Okkie Kruis'. He founded a department for people with a mental disability (music expression) , and did a great deal of work in the field of culture education in Zuid-Oost Fryslân. At Parnas in Leeuwarden he was head of the music department and at the Prince Claus Conservatoire he was a regular guest teacher for 'orientation on the field of practice'.

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