Why Is It Important to Have Sing-Alongs
for Residents, Staff, Caregivers, and Family?
“Beyond the entertainment value, there’s growing evidence that listening to music can also stimulate seemingly lost memories and even restore cognitive function.”
Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2009
“Recent research indicates that the systematic use of music can be an effective way to consciously manage your mind, body and mood.”
Tune Your Brain, by Elizabeth Miles, p.1
“Clinical trials show that music can improve your memory, regulate vital signs like your heart rate and blood pressure, control your pain, change your emotional outlook and direct your mental and physical energy levels through the day.”
“Singing directly to people and in proximity to them, even if they do not join in, can be beneficial.”
Therapeutic Uses of Music With Older Adults, by A. Clair and J. Memmott, p. 90
“It is a popular belief that people with degenerative dementia can continue to sing even when they can no longer speak.”
Ibid, p. 82
“Music gives meaning to their environment when so many other experiences are not understandable. People with dementia may respond spontaneously to music by tapping their feet, clapping or dancing.”
Ibid., p. 80
“Why does making music switch off the genes that signal stress? It is because music is part of who we are at the deepest level.”
Christine Stevens, Music Medicine
John found evidence that music awakens. Read his story:
It was early in the year 2009 that I made a discovery that amazed me. An old woman sat in the Memory Care unit, bent over and staring at the floor, as she did most of the day. I sat down in front of her stooped body and tried to converse with her. She did not seem to know where she was or where her family was. She could not name her children or grandchildren. I was not sure she could tell me her own name. I glanced up at her caregiver, who stood behind her, and the caregiver smiled at me, knowingly. Conversation was out of the question.
I doubted that she would be interested in my life as a former English teacher and 30-year career as a professor of speech communication, actor, debate coach or teacher of the oral interpretation of literature, so I decided to approach the woman in another way – by communicating through song. I asked her if she would “please sing along with me.”
The song I chose was in a lightly swinging ¾ or waltz time, first published in 1910 entitled, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” At first, I could see no response from her. She continued to stare down at her feet and made no attempt to speak or establish eye contact with me. Then I discovered that one of her feet was gently tapping in the exact rhythm in which I was singing.
Gradually and ever so slowly, she began to raise her head until she was staring into my eyes. Her eyes were clear and twinkling. I thought I could detect a small soft smile on her face. Her lips began to move and she was singing with me! At first, I couldn’t believe it! She knew the lyrics and she could sing them!
Later, her caregiver said she heard the woman say, “I love you, too” in a soft voice, inaudible to me. Could it be? Was my volunteer singing perceived as an act of love? That was the moment my motivation to be a professional sing-along man took hold. I had already been rewarded.
Since that moment, I have received many expressions of appreciation and invitations to lead sing-alongs at additional retirement communities. I could tell you many true stories like the one above. I emphasize to those who invite me that I am not an “entertainer,” though I’m often introduced that way. My objective is to hear others join in my song or volunteer their favorite song. As my research catches up with my experience, I believe that singing along is healthy for all of us. (See Tune Your Brain, by Elizabeth Miles; Music Medicine, by Christine Stevens; and Awakenings, by Oliver Sacks.)
To learn more about John’s sing-alongs that unlock memories for dementia patients, CLICK HERE.
To enjoy the personas that John portrays in his sing-alongs, CLICK HERE.
For inquiries or to schedule John for a sing-along, CLICK HERE.