As the holiday season approaches, traditional songs and carols can bring back happy memories and spark a sense of joy for people of all ages. And for older adults living with dementia, music can be the last untouched means of communicating and sharing experiences with friends, family and caregivers. A multigenerational choir in North Vancouver is tapping into the power of music to bring seniors, youth and caregivers together in a shared activity that helps to lift the stigma surrounding dementia and create more inclusive communities.
According to a recent report in the North Shore News, the NoteWorthy Singers are a 30 member choir comprised of teenagers, older adults with mild to moderate memory loss and several family caregivers. By participating in rehearsals, and hopefully concerts one day soon, seniors and caregivers are able to stay more connected with their communities, helping to combat social isolation that can lead to depression and an increased reliance on prescription medication. Research has discovered that creating music can have healing powers; it releases endorphins, the body’s “feel-good” hormone which has been linked with greater pain tolerance as well as an overall feeling of well-being.
Music has been found to be a source of joy, reassurance and a way for friends and families to connect with a loved one living with dementia. According to the Mayo Clinic, musical memories are often intact among patients with Alzheimer’s because areas in the brain linked with music are less damaged by the disease. Participating in choir rehearsals and performances offers people with memory loss a sense of social inclusion, closeness and connection; something many seniors with dementia struggle to maintain.
As the holidays approach, it’s not too early to tune the piano or dust off the guitar and think about sharing the gift of music with an elderly loved one. If joining a local choir is not in the cards, informal musical gatherings at home or in a care facility can bring great joy to older adults and create opportunities for social bonding.