Aug 3, 2012

Delay Dementia, Improve Memory Thru Musical Interventions

The Mature Musicians and Singing Seniors periodically come together to perform for family and friends.

By Ellen (Nowak) Belk
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Delay Dementia, Improve Memory Thru Musical Interventions | Alzheimer's Reading Room

One of my proudest professional achievements has been the Mature Musician program I developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

The initial idea was to offer music lessons to cognitively healthy Senior Adults to support the theory that learning to play a musical instrument has a positive impact on brain and memory health.

Our initial test group was 12 Senior Adults, who agreed to take a series of cognition tests thru our Medical Supervisor. Each received eight weeks of individualized music lessons followed by eight more weeks of group lessons where they learned how to play as an ensemble.

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The Senior students were re-tested after the initial 16 weeks and the preliminary results fully supported the initial theory; as most had noticeable increase in cognition.

At the time, another group was established -- The Singing Seniors.

These were individuals with an Alzheimer’s or related dementia diagnosis.

This group received weekly voice lessons with a Conservatory instructor who utilized voice and diction drills with them while also singing familiar tunes. The Singing Seniors practiced with staff members between organized instruction – thus, reinforcing the musical intervention.

The Mature Musicians and Singing Seniors periodically come together to perform for family and friends.

In 2005, both Senior Groups combined with the Wisconsin Conservatory professionals and recorded a Holiday CD, showcasing their unique musical partnership. (This CD was a promotional tool and not available for public purchase).

This powerful partnership highlighted the importance of engaging the brain and learning new skills at any stage of life to maintain brain health.

Music Notes
Ellen Belk is President of Keep In Mind™ and creator of Memory Magz™. Since 2001, Belk has specialized in developing programming for the memory impaired. A mature musician concert band, an intergenerational Senior Prom, and a Fine Art appreciation program are amongst her professional highlights. Memory Magz™ are ‘magazine style’ picture publications with full page vibrant images purposefully designed for people with cognitive decline and/or developmental disabilities. As a public speaker, Belk engages the audience with her inter-active style and witty story telling. Keep in Mind.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room