Study claims singing show tunes may stave off dementia symptoms

“Popular songs help enhance cognition, quality of life for people with dementia, research shows”

November 14, 2013 — Deron Hamel 

Musical activities are always popular in long-term care homes, and new research is suggesting that singing — particularly show tunes — can stave off the impact of dementia.

“The message is: don't give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”

“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”

The results of the study conducted by U.S. researchers indicates that residents who are encouraged to sing show tunes, such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow and When You Wish Upon a Star, demonstrate improved cognition and enhanced quality of life.

During a four-month period, the scientists studied nine people affected by dementia who regularly sing show tunes at their eastern U.S. long-term care home. The residents are involved with a choir designed by the researchers. The residents were led in a 50-minute chorus of a variety of show tunes three times per week.

The original choir consisted of 18 residents. The nine residents who did not participate in singing during the course of the study observed those who did. Results between the two groups of residents were compared.

The study indicates that singing show tunes is particularly beneficial to residents with moderate to severe dementia.

Scans on residents involved with the study showed enhanced activity in various regions of the brain; a factor scientists believe is the result of singing songs from The Wizard of Oz , The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and Pinocchio.

Neuroscientist Dr. Jane Flinn of George Mason University in Virginia is one of the researchers involved with the study. Based on the study’s results, Flinn recommends long-term care homes consider encouraging residents with cognitive impairment to sing show tunes.

“Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful,” Flinn told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”

Click here for more information on the study.

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