For many people living with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementia, the world can be a frightening, lonely place as familiar faces, places and memories fade. "A story I hear all too often is that people living with dementia — and their caregivers — feel isolated and cut off from their own community," Angela Lunde, education program manager for Mayo Clinic's Department of Neurology, tells us. "They feel marginalized by society and, along with their caregivers, reveal that that they often feel excluded."
Since 2015, however, Lunde and others in the Rochester community have been working to reverse that in a unique and inspiring way. After a community assessment identified "wellness and engagement" as a top priority for people affected by dementia, Lunde says "a community choir for those living with memory loss or dementia and their care partners began to take shape."
The professionally directed choir, Resounding Voices, offers an opportunity for those affected by dementia to feel connected and respected in communities that can feel increasingly foreign to them. "Music can enrich the lives of individuals with dementia, and singing in a choir has enormous potential to benefit not only the person affected, but also their support partners and local community," Lunde tells us. The music "showcases the existing strengths of the individual" and can change "the existing negative societal attitudes and stigma" around cognitive disease, she says.
What's more, Lunde recently tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin that music can help people living with dementia maintain their remaining cognitive capabilities. "People even in the late stages, even in the end stages, maintain the ability to connect to certain types of music," she tells the paper. "Even though they might not be singing the music, you can tell there's a connection."
That's certainly true for Stan Leonard, 87, who "sings well and can play the piano by ear," according to the P-B. Stan and his wife, Sue, joined the chorus Giving Voice — a Minneapolis-based counterpart to Resounding Voices — more than a year ago. Sue tells the paper that although Stan was always musical, it wasn't until dementia set in and other interests were no longer an option that he turned to music. "I know that, for a fact, music is the one thing that does seem to hang on when everything else fades," she tells the newspaper.
Lunde has seen that in action at the Rochester concerts. "When you're at one of these concerts, you don't see dementia," she tells the P-B. "You see people. And you hear really great music that makes you feel good. That, I think, is pretty spectacular."
If you'd like to help give the group a voice, the choir is accepting new member registrations — no audition required. For more information, check out the choir's website. Then be sure to leave a comment below and use the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.