Hitting The Right Notes: The Benefits Of Singing On Dementia
With growing evidence that singing can improve wellbeing and health in people with dementia, we look at what these benefits can be.
Making memories: Singing is a brilliant cue for autobiographical memories - linking tunes to individual life events can help reinforce our sense of identity. This plays a hugely significant role in how we connect socially and emotionally with those that are close to us. Tunes that were first encountered between early adolescence and our late 20s seem to be particularly evocative for dementia sufferers.
Mood melodies: Singing has strong emotional ties and can help to improve your mood or relax you. We see this all the time when singing lullabies to crying babies, and singing upbeat or calming tunes can have similar positive effect on people with dementia.
Warm up: Singing is a gentle cardiovascular activity. With regular practice it has been shown to increase lung capacity and help alleviate breathlessness in some common lung disorders.
Social singing: Singing can be a social stimulating activity for people with dementia, offering them access to new friends and a safe community in which to communicate and retain skills. Whether enjoyed passively when listening or actively when singing yourself, in both cases there are benefits to be gained.
In harmony: Singing can be a unique and important way to communicate when all other roads are closed. Those who can’t remember names or events earlier in the day may well be able to remember the words to their favourite tunes from the past as it taps into a different part of the brain.
Singing can be enjoyed socially, with many groups available across Oxfordshire for people with dementia and their carers. Nancy Farmer, ElWell’s Physiotherapist, saw these benefits in action at the Alzheimer’s Society Singing For The Brain group in Banbury which is held twice monthly.
“It was brilliant to see the enjoyment that singing can bring and it was a very friendly, welcoming group. Singing is a great way to express yourself and everyone seemed happy and relaxed.”
And we also recommend you watch the BBC One show ‘Our Dementia Choir’, which investigates the power of music on dementia led by Professor Sebastian Crutch from the Dementia Research Centre, University College London. First airing on May 2, 2019, it can be found on BBC iPlayer.