You may know that we run a monthly gospel singing session for African Caribbean people who are living with dementia and their family carers. It’s not always easy to get people to come out and socialise and research suggests that the stigma around dementia is even greater in BAME communities. Dementia also causes people to feel apathetic, low in mood, frustrated and bewildered – not in the mood for socialising or trying something new. However there’s more and more research showing the positive impact of music on people’s mood and cognition (cf. the film ‘Alive Inside’).
At a recent session the impact on the people with dementia was really noteworthy: one lady had been getting agitated and upset about wanting ‘to go home’, another gentleman was sitting alone staring at the walls of his flat saying he didn’t feel well enough to join us, and another lady was getting stressed about leaving her house. By the end of the session they were all singing, swaying or clapping hands and smiling at the other group members. The singing was beautiful and the mood was joyful and encouraging, with laughter and banter. And to top it all, a gentleman who really struggles to communicate even with single words, was singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’. It helps when the music is familiar and people feel at home with people from their own community, but there is no doubt in my mind that music stimulates the brain in a powerful way – and not only for people living with dementia. I’ve been buzzing all weekend too!
Listen to a snippet by clicking below