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The nostalgic radio station keeping older Aussies connected

28 March 2022 at 3:59 pm
Maggie Coggan
Gary Thorpe OAM is the general manager of Silver Memories, a broadcasting service that aims to address social isolation among older Australians. He’s this week’s Changemaker.

Maggie Coggan | 28 March 2022 at 3:59 pm


The nostalgic radio station keeping older Aussies connected
28 March 2022 at 3:59 pm

Gary Thorpe OAM is the general manager of Silver Memories, a broadcasting service that aims to address social isolation among older Australians. He’s this week’s Changemaker. 

Having been a radio host and broadcaster for over 40 years, Gary Thorpe OAM has a firm belief in the power of music to heal and bring people together. 

It’s why, in 2007, he created Silver Memories, a 24 hours a day, seven days a week broadcasting service that is fighting social isolation among Australia’s older populations. 

With those over the age of 75 more likely to be lonely than any other age group in Australia, Silver Memories has been developed specifically to address social isolation and depression in aged care through reminiscence music therapy, which entails listening and discussing activities, events, and experiences related to the music.

The station is hosted by friendly announcers who create social connections with their older audiences via Birthday calls and includes cheerio greetings and birthday calls from our friendly announcers, and before the advent of television, playing cheerful and gentle music from the 1940s to the 1970s.   

Several research projects on the impact of Silver Memories have shown it led to a significant reduction in depression, anxiety and agitation in older listeners. And during the pandemic, the station was found to be particularly helpful to people living with dementia. 

The platform has been endorsed by the Australian Medical Association (QLD) and Alzheimer’s Australia (QLD) who use it in their Dementia Behaviour Management Service, and has now been expanded to 160 aged care homes across Australia via satellite. As well as this, it has been 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’s trying to make through his work, managing challenges, and how the organisation has changed his perspective on the world around him. 

How did you get into the job you’re in now?  

I was one of the people that 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 was given the job. Prior to then, for almost 20 years, I was a mechanical engineering draughtsman but we were mostly replaced by computers so I moved into broadcasting. 

I created the Silver Memories broadcast service in 2007 as a means of addressing social isolation in the aged through the power of age appropriate music.

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

I am trying to address the issue of social isolation through the power of age appropriate music to improve wellbeing, reduce depression and anxiety in the aged.

How do you manage challenges in your work? 

I persist until the challenges are overcome or look for a different way to address the challenge. 

Is this the job you thought you’d have 10 years ago?

I have been the general manager of 4MBS Classic FM for 33 years and of Silver Memories since we started the service in 2007. Ten years ago we were still developing the full Silver Memories service and I am so pleased that it is now a comprehensive reminiscence therapy service.

What advice do you have for others wanting to make a change in the world? 

Persevere, don’t give up. If you feel disheartened go back to your original reason for starting the project and renew your commitment to it. Gather like-minded people to the cause.

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

Silver Memories has taught me that humans need social connection particularly when [we are] at our most vulnerable such as in aged care.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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