Legendary folk singer Dafydd Iwan is using the power of his memorable songs to help people cope with dementia.
Although he’s officially retired, Dafydd appears busier than ever and stages monthly singalongs at the Bryn Seiont Newydd dementia centre on the outskirts of Caernarfon.
He’s already proving a big hit with the residents and staff alike at the centre where music and the arts are a part of daily life.
Bryn Seiont is run by the arts-loving Pendine Park organisation who have appointed a musician in residence and an artist in residence to work there.
Dafydd, a former county councillor who co-founded the record company, Sain, said: “I’ve retired now so I just choose what I want to do these days.
“This kind of thing is very interesting because it means that I can just use the songs that are suitable to get a reaction and I love it.
“A song or two can awaken a memory and it’s surprising how many of the residents know the words to some of the songs.
“As we get to know each other better there is more and more singing together and more reaction.
“I think one thing that’s always interested me about my songs is how they can be used for different purposes. I’ve never just been an entertainer but I always try to use my songs for a purpose.
“I love seeing to what extent songs can awaken an interest in people who have difficulties because of their dementia.
“I think it’s very interesting that songs can make that breakthrough when other things can’t.
Dafydd, who lives nearby, remembers the old community hospital, Ysbyty Bryn Seiont, which used to occupy the site.
He said: “I saw the old place close and then get a new lease of life as Bryn Seiont Newydd.
“One of the problems we have now which is that there are an increasing number of people living longer with the result that their memories start to fade, so it’s fantastic to have a place like this on our doorstep with such a great use of the Welsh language here.
“It’s brilliant that people are able to stay in their own community. There was a real need of a place like this in this part of the country. I’m very pleased.”
According to Bryn Seiont’s musician in residence, Nia Davies Williams, Dafydd’s visits are already having a positive impact.
She said: He’s a very special man. The residents really appreciate his presence and are very ready to have a chat.
“Once he stops singing, the conversations start and they’re all very keen to talk, to say where they come from and so on.
“Dafydd can make up some little verses using the names of the residents and this adds to their enjoyment.
“The songs seem to unlock something in their memories. Dafydd has been singing for years so people know who he is and they remember him.
“His songs are very memorable and the last one today was “Yma o Hyd” (Still Here) and I felt that the words were very fitting. In spite of everything these residents are still singing.
“One or two of them became a little emotional. They’re in a difficult position but Dafydd’s songs are uplifting and raise their spirits.
“What really matters is kindness and enriching people’s lives.”