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Singing Can Help Dementia


A recent study shows that music can help Dementia patients recall memories and emotions, and helps to enhance mental performance after singing classic hits and show tunes from films and musicals.

According to, researchers lead half of the participants through selected songs while the other half listened to the music being played. After the musical treatment, all participants took cognitive ability and life satisfaction tests which showed how participants scored significantly better when being lead through songs, rather than only listening.



A local service, Herts Musical Memories, was founded in April 2017 following on from the Singing for the Brain service, originally provided by the Alzheimer’s Society, which was discontinued after changes to council funding.

Founder of Herts Musical Memories, Kerry Brabant, said, “It seemed unthinkable to me, as an ex Singing for the Brain leader, that this service should no longer be available to people in Hertfordshire. I know, from personal experience, just how important singing and music is for people with dementia and their carers. My father had vascular dementia and, towards the end of his illness, he could no longer speak - but we could still communicate though singing. The very last time I saw him he was very ill and in a lot of pain. I put on the radio and a song came on that we both recognised. As I joined in with the music, he lifted his head and we sang together. It is this ability to reconnect with music that makes our singing sessions so valuable for those who attend.”

Wheathampstead has its very own group, which takes place most weeks in Marford Hall on a Monday and we went along to meet group leader Wendy Hyams to see what it was all about.

There were more than 30 people sitting around in a big circle and singing when I arrived and I was given a seat and urged to take part. Wendy had four volunteer helpers who assisted by giving out song sheets, helping to lead the singing as well as handing around little percussion instruments, from maracas to mini tambourines. We all had something to tap on. It really was great fun to join in and it was clear that everyone was pleased to be there singing along to old favourites like Leaning on a Lamppost and Daydream Believer to name just a couple. These singing sessions provide stimulation for families, people with dementia and their carers who can share happy times together; It really was great to see so many smiles.

Local lady Wendy told MiniMagazines that refreshments are provided at the start of each session as well as seated exercises and vocal warm–ups. To keep things fresh, different songs are introduced for each session and Wendy works to a theme, choosing appropriate songs each time. Wendy, who leads the sessions in Wheathampstead, St Albans and Welwyn Garden City, is one of five group leaders who spread their time across all of the Hertforshire Groups.
Each one of the 13 groups across Hertfordshire is supported by a team of dedicated volunteers who all have an understanding of dementia and are all extremely important to the success of their group. Currently, some singing volunteers are needed for the Welwyn Garden City group. If you would like to go along or get involved, contact Wendy on 07984 588532.. or Kerry on 0208 9505757



Five reasons why researchers* believe that music boosts brain activity

1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.

Music can evoke emotion in even the most advanced of Alzheimer’s patients. It brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can. By pairing music with every day activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to the recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time.

2. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients.

Linda Maguire, lead author on the study said, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.” Because these two abilities remain long after other abilities have passed, music is an excellent way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.

3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness.

In the later stages of dementia, patients often lose the ability to share emotions with caregivers. Through music, as long as they are ambulatory, they can often dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching which brings security and memories.

4. Singing is engaging.

The singing sessions in the study engaged more than just the brain and the area related to singing. As singing activated the left side of the brain, listening to music sparked activity in the right and watching the class activated visual areas of the brain. With so much of the brain being stimulated, the patients were exercising more mind power than usual.

5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions.

When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.


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