A South Carolina retirement community is using music to help Alzheimer's patients. And it's working, reports NBC News.The Foothills Retirement Community in Easley uses music as a way to sharpen the mind.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America suggests that even in the late stages of Alzheimer's, it can be beneficial, shifting moods, managing stress or agitation, facilitating cognitive function and coordinating motor movement.
Music is their recommendation because the "rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing."
According to the foundation, music links us to our memories and can have a positive response, certain tempos of music can stimulate or sedate and can allow for movement or closeness to loved ones from dancing, rocking, or singing (some form of engagement).
This foundation has a how-to of music therapy for each stage. Check it out here.
A study reported on by Psychology Today indicates that background music - when played for older adults - had effects on the speed of the brain's processes and episodic and semantic memory. The former task required that the adults recall a list of 15 words after two minutes; the latter asked them to write as many three-letter words as they could think of.
Listening to Mozart increased processing speed and resulted in better semantic memory. Episodic memory was enhanced with music than without, but there was no noted difference between the two types of music (Mozart and Mahler), found Psychology Today.
Alzheimers.net added that dementia patients can also benefit from music. They noted that musical aptitude and appreciation are things that remain even if the other abilities have passed, so it's still an effective mode of communication.
Even more than that, Alzheimers.net found that singing is engaging, stimulating areas of the brain and resulting in more activity. For suggestions on music/movies, they recommend "The Sound of Music," Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and The Wizard of Oz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Music Sparks stated that music and exercise could go hand-in-hand, helping with balance and fall reduction, but also affecting overall health (namely, sleep, lessened pain, better memory and recall, improved recovery time and awareness and increased concentration and coordination).
Music Sparks also noted the psychological benefits of listening to music, like a positive outlook on life, improved interest and communication, more relaxation and more self-expression and self-esteem.
A NPR article documented on "All Things Considered" how for elderly with dementia or Alzheimer's, music awakened them, promoting relationships and giving them opportunity to use technology, like iPods, as an aid.
"Even though Alzheimer's and various forms of dementia will ravage many parts of the brain, long-term memory of music from when one was young remains very often," said Dan Cohen, a social worker in the documentary "Alive Inside." "So if you tap that, you really get that kind of awakening response. It's pretty exciting to see."
Check out his thoughts on how to engage the elderly with music here.