Making memories count

Gary Thorpe celebrates his latest award for his innovative Silver Memories program.

Gary Thorpe OAM, General Manager of 4MBS Classic FM and Silver Memories, has been awarded an Australian Mental Health Prize by the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Silver Memories is a Brisbane-based 24-hour a day broadcast service, inspired by the experiences of Gary’s elderly neighbour when she moved to a home, was set up 15 years ago to address social isolation in the aged using age- appropriate music.

The service is now delivered via satellite to 200 aged care homes across Australia and is also available in the community via an app.

The service has grown to also include thousands of beautiful photographs as well as the music.

As well as Gary Thorpe OAM – Community Hero, the remaining winners included: Donna Stanley – Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander: a proud Gunggari Umby (woman) and vastly experienced clinician in Aboriginal mental health; Ian Thorpe AM – Lived Experience: a prominent advocate for mental health awareness, prevention and stigma); and Alan Woodward – Professional: distinguished career in suicide prevention, evaluation and quality improvement).

The prestigious UNSW Australian Mental Health Prize recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/ treatment of mental illness.

Silver Memories has expanded to provide ‘road-shows’ in aged care homes, public concerts and filmed studio performances. Silver Memories is enhanced (and accessed internationally) by its newly created app, accessed by users in their homes and across community facilities and hospitals.

Co-chair of the Prize, Professor Allan Fels AO, said this year’s winners reflect the current mental health priorities in Australia.

“In particular, we have seen higher rates of mental illness during COVID… greater isolation of older people, particularly in nursing homes”.

Gary highlighted the importance of Silver Memories as an evidence-based platform, operating in over 200 aged care and hospital facilities across Australia.

“During Covid-19, Silver Memories provided an essential service addressing social isolation through its 24 hour a day broadcasts of age appropriate music and familiar artists, including Silver Memories’ ambassador, Mirusia,” he said.

Silver Memories does not receive operational funding from any level of government and is supported by subscriptions, donations and philanthropic funds. Silver Memories Patron, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, congratulated Silver Memories:

“The Australian Mental Health Prize is a great vote of confidence and appreciation for Silver Memories. I am proud to be the Patron of this important service.”

Earlier this year Thorpe was awarded the Pro Bono Impact 25 Award for the social impact of Silver Memories. He had previously been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research the use of music in the management of dementia, and the impact of social isolation and depression on the elderly.

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