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Caregiver Ideas: 5 Reasons to Consider Sharing Live Music with the Elderly

By Anthony Cirillo June 15, 2018 Caregiving

Many in the aging services professions are already aware of the power of music on healing and particularly with dementia patients. Many patients can remember and sing songs even in advanced stages, long after they’ve stopped recognizing names and faces.

Yet, even in this day and age, elders are often plopped in front of televisions in care homes and that is justified as an activity. Yet, there are so many benefits of incorporating music, particularly live music, in the lives of older adults.

Helps Recover Lost Memories

Care homes often use music as recreation since it brings residents pleasure. There’s growing evidence that listening to music can also help stimulate seemingly lost memories and even help maintain some cognitive functioning.

One study demonstrated that while singing, memories are produced that contribute to self-discovery, self-understanding and identity.

Remember how Glen Campbell came to life when he took the stage during his farewell tour, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?

Helps People Emerge from Isolation and Loneliness

In an Alzheimer’s Association newsletter, John Carpenter, founder of the world-renowned Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York, shared that listening to live music and being involved in live music-making experiences empowers people to emerge from the isolation imposed by dementia or simply from loneliness.

People who are connected this way are less depressed and more likely to engage in other meaningful activities.

One study showed that personalized music therapy may help decrease antipsychotic use and improve dementia symptoms in individuals with dementia.

Leads to a Rise in Mental Acuity

Another study has shown that the mental acuity of Alzheimer’s patients who regularly sang over a four-month period rose sharply.

That is why programs such as the Giving Voice Chorus are so important. The Giving Voice Initiative inspires and equips organizations to bring together people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners to sing in choruses that foster joy, well-being, purpose and community understanding.

Giving Voice is leading a worldwide movement that helps people with Alzheimer’s Disease and their care partners live better lives and strengthen connections to their community through singing together.

If you’re interested, Giving Voice Initiative has a complete blueprint on their site for replicating the program in your community.

It Can Be Done Just as Effectively Over the Web

One study revealed that nursing home residents with dementia who often get agitated benefited from internet video chat that enabled them to both see as well as hear others while reducing agitation.

The Aging Experience combines both internet chat and live music to bring live streaming concerts to residents in care homes and as well as to shut-in elders.

It Increases Learning and Retention

Singing has been shown to increase learning and retention of new verbal material in persons with Alzheimer’s disease, and to engage brain regions responsible for motor action, emotions and creativity.

Brain scan images have shown that the dorsal medial pre-frontal cortex – associated with autobiographical memories and emotions – is highly stimulated during music activities. For people with Alzheimer’s, this area of the brain is one of the last to be affected.

One anonymous quote put it nicely: “Playing music is like a mega-vitamin, engaging more areas of the human brain than any other activity.” So, take your daily dose of vitamin M!

Is your loved one exposed to live music? Do you find a way to bring music into his/her life? Please share the results you notice and how your loved one responds to this kind of engagement.

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The Author

Anthony Cirillo is founder of Sage Stream, the Senior Entertainment/Education Network and president of The Aging Experience, which helps people and companies prepare for aging before it becomes a crisis. A health and aging expert, professional speaker, and media influencer, he is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Anthony serves as a Policy RoundTable member for Nationwide Financial and Bank of America.

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