The nostalgic radio station keeping older Aussies connected

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Gary Thorpe OAM is the managing director of Silver Memories, a streaming service which aims to tackle the social isolation of older Australians. He is this week’s Changemaker.

A radio host and broadcaster for over 40 years, Gary Thorpe OAM is a firm believer in the power of music to heal and bring people together.

That’s why, in 2007, he created Silver Memories, a 24/7 streaming service that tackles social isolation among Australia’s older populations.

With people over 75 more likely to be lonely than any other age group in Australia, Silver Memories was developed specifically to tackle social isolation and depression in aged care through music therapy reminiscence, which involves listening to and discussing music-related activities, events and experiences.

The station is hosted by friendly announcers who socialize with their older audience via birthday calls and includes cheerio greetings and birthday calls from our friendly announcers, and before the advent of television, playing happy and soft music from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Several research projects on the impact of Silver Memories have shown it to significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and agitation in older listeners. And during the pandemic, the station has proven particularly helpful for people with dementia.

The platform has been approved by the Australian Medical Association (QLD) and Alzheimer Australia (QLD) who use it in their dementia behavior management service, and has now been rolled out to 160 aged care homes across Australia via satellite. Besides that, it was developed as an app for people living at home.

For his work on the project, Thorpe was named one of Pro Bono Australia’s 2022 Impact 25 Award winners.

In this week’s Changemaker, Thorpe discusses the impact he tries to have through his work, dealing with challenges and how the organization has changed his perspective on the world around him.

How did you come to the position you currently hold?

I was one of the people who started the classical music FM radio station 4MBS Classic FM in Brisbane in 1979. Ten years later, when the position of general manager of the station became available, I applied and I got the job. Previously, for almost 20 years, I was a draftsman in mechanical engineering, but we were mostly replaced by computers, so I turned to broadcasting.

I started the streaming service Silver Memories in 2007 as a way to combat the social isolation of older adults through the power of age-appropriate music.

What kind of impact are you trying to achieve through Silver Memories?

I try to solve the problem of social isolation through the power of age-appropriate music to improve well-being, reduce depression and anxiety in the elderly.

How do you deal with challenges in your work?

I persist until challenges are overcome or seek another way to meet the challenge.

Is this the job you thought you had 10 years ago?

I have been the Managing Director of 4MBS Classic FM for 33 years and of Silver Memories since we launched the service in 2007. Ten years ago we were still developing the full Silver Memories service and I am so happy that it has now acts as a complete reminiscence therapy. service.

What advice do you have for those who want to change the world?

Persevere, don’t give up. If you feel discouraged, go back to the original reason you started the project and renew your commitment. Bring like-minded people together for the cause.

How has your work made you change the way you see the world?

Silver Memories taught me that humans crave social connection, especially when [we are] to our most vulnerable, such as in care for the elderly.

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