MUSIC has given a new lease of life to a reclusive pensioner whose life was put on hold by a stroke suffered after major heart surgery.

From the early 1990s Ken Gibson enjoyed playing the piano on a regular basis but was forced to give up his hobby in 2010 following a stroke which left him with a heart condition and unable to do every day tasks.

The 66-year-old, of Sedgefield, has since seen his life transformed by the Sage Gateshead where, on attending a concert one summer, he discovered the Silver Programme - which offers classes to the over 50s.

Mr Gibson said: "I noticed a number of people of a similar age walking round with ukuleles. I took a leaflet and worked up the courage to enquire about the classes on offer. I started in the beginner guitar class and it has taken off from there.”

Following his stroke Mr Gibson, although mobile, was unable to fill in any documentation, for which he relied on the Red Cross for help.

Walking and coordination were also a problem and resulted in four and a half months at a day ward in the local hospital.

His condition meant that he could no longer read music while he had also become a full-time carer for his wife Maureen.

The Silver Programme spurred him on and he was soon playing music again.

“A friend introduced me to guitar tabulation which whilst difficult to follow was easier than reading music," said Mr Gibson. "I still find it difficult and I need to practice probably more than most people just to keep up, but I’m now enjoying my music and the friendships I’ve made thanks to the classes."

Mr Gibson now plays in the Mandolin Orchestra, Bluegrass Band and Skiffle Band, which are part of the Silver Programme.

His life outside the classes has taken off after being invited to join a band which he now gigs with regularly.

The pensioner's musical journey has also inspired his wife to take up her own hobbies which have improved her confidence and given her some independence.

"I’ve gone from a person who was petrified to meet people to playing on stage almost weekly and loving it," he said. "I still have my health issues, but I have found that being involved in music has helped with my coordination, confidence and ability to work out things for myself - I no longer need the Red Cross to help me fill in forms, I manage them myself.

"Independence is a wonderful thing and I’m really enjoying the freedom the music has given me.”

  • For more information about the Silver Programme and classes at the Sage Gateshead call 0191 443 4661 or visit