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Timberharps & Dementia

We were approached by Sussex NHS Trust to create a custom Timberharp for use by dementia patients at a residential ward at Horsham Hospital.

After spending time with the Occupational Therapists and the people with dementia we designed a special extra-light and super-sensitive Timberharp that was suitable for lap and table access.

The therapists were immediately delighted by the rotational shoulder movement the Timberharp encouraged due to the setup of the sensors in an elliptical pattern. 

They were also very happy with the calming effect that stroking the Timberharp had on their patients, who were able to produce beautiful relaxing music with the very lightest of touches.

The patients were clearly enjoying the feeling of producing their own music so easily, which gave them the incentive to continue far beyond the length of time the staff team were used to with other activities.

Several of the patients were former musicians who had been unable to play any sort of instrument for many years due to their illness and these were the people who seemed to get the most joy from playing with the Timberharps.

Embracing on a Bench

Whilst scientific studies into music and the effect that it has on memory fall far short of pharmaceutical testing, there are plenty of very experienced professionals who have first hand stories of how music and memory are related.

Many homes for the elderly have sing-a-longs with wartime songs, rag-time and swing from the forties which obviously delight the residents and "take them back" to days they can remember more clearly.

Our experience at the Iris Ward certainly mirrors this, as we witnessed several very contented elderly patients smiling wistfully as they played their Timberharps.


Because all Timberharps are pentatonic they always sound good however they are used.

Pentatonic scales have just five notes per octave, all of which go with each other so every combination makes a harmonised chord.


“The smooth, inviting feel of the natural wood encourages hands to touch and explore, taking the user on a journey and helping them to make their own unique, musical discoveries.


The sense of control that this evokes can be incredibly empowering, while the tranquillity emitted through touch and sound is very grounding - helping to calm troubled or over-stimulated minds”  - Jennifer Bishop MA Msc, Assistant Director, Barnardos

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