Music is medicine

Every Wednesday, a group of 28 or so meet at Bethania Community Centre to chat and sing along to rousing classics like Sweet Caroline.

Ross Wiseman founded the dementia choir after struggling with his dementia diagnosis at the age of 74.

Dementia is a syndrome that impairs a person’s ability to remember, speak and think.

‘I felt like it was the end of my otherwise fully active and meaningful life, and the beginning of an inevitable slide into the loss of everything I knew,’ Ross says.

Now, four years later, Ross has found a new sense of purpose in helping others do the same.

Members of the choir either have dementia, or are family members or close friends involved in the care of someone with the condition.

The group has recently benefited from Logan City Council’s Division 6 Community Benefit Fund, allowing the cost of the required standard of teaching and leading the choir, as well as instruments and music.

‘We are so grateful to Council because there are as many as 2,000 people in Logan who are living with dementia in their own homes, with the support of their partners, and other family members or friends, and a smaller percentage in aged care facilities,’ Ross says.

‘Singing is such a natural and beautiful way of brightening our spirits’ and drawing people out of their houses into the community to socialize with people they know and trust, thus providing much enrichment in their lives.

‘Another bonus is that recalling music-related memories from long-term memory can help with the preservation of speech.’

Loss of speech, associated with short term memory loss, is one of the early symptoms of dementia.

Numerous studies have suggested that recalling one’s favourite songs from childhood can stimulate short term memory function, as musical memories activate emotions that ease and enrich the lives of those with dementia.

This research is what inspired Ross to investigate why so many dementia choirs existed around the world.

‘The people in our choir have truly proved that singing together creates such togetherness with people who understand your life,’ he says.

‘The ongoing strain of trying to mask the dementia and its burden can be dropped completely.

‘We feel right at home and that is the foundation of a strong and understanding support group like ours.’

And that is what all, or most people with dementia and their families are much in need of.

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