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Chorus Gives Voice to Those With Alzheimer's
Date:12/22/2011

has a wonderful potential to be an Alzheimer's therapy," he said. "First, it involves physical activity, which is good for the brain and the heart. You have to get up and go. You can't participate in the activity if you stay home. And then singing involves emotional and social relationships, which are stimulating. And it provides purpose, so it's a meaningful activity and a very vigorous one. And it also would be a valuable approach to dealing with depression, which often accompanies dementia."

"That's not to say," Friedland cautioned, "that it's proven that singing in itself is effective as a therapy. But there's every reason to believe that it may very well be."

For his part, Smith says he doesn't need a study to know that the chorus is improving the quality of life for members, allowing them to regain their dignity.

"For example, there's a guy in the group, Chester, who is rather advanced in terms of his situation," Smith said. "Now this is a man who worked for IBM. He was very, very bright and educated. But when he was asked to [join the chorus], even clapping was very difficult for him. And yet now he is performing a solo in the concert from 'Fiddler on the Roof.'"

"I think there is a realization that the participants with dementia still have some behavioral skills working," he explained. "One watches loved ones or friends unable to accomplish tasks, having difficulty processing or retaining thoughts, or just experiencing confusion. And all of a sudden [in the chorus] they are functioning in a group setting and succeeding in singing words and melody."

More information

There's more on how music impacts dementia care at the Alzheimer's Association.

SOURCES: Mary S. Mittelman, Dr. P.H, research professor, department of psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; Robert Friedland, M
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