Program uses music to jog memories of patients with Alzheimer's, dementia

Musical Minds Choir uses songs from 1920s to 1960s to help memory

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WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – We all love listening to music, especially singalong songs that take us down memory lane. And because music has a particular impact on us -- specifically in the brain -- it's being used to help Alzheimer patients and people in the early stages of dementia.

The program, called Musical Minds Choir, started in Altamonte Springs and is now in Winter Garden.

Every week, it allows people who suffer from the diseases the chance to relive those special memories through music. 

If you walk past the Sobo Gallery and Art Center in Winter Garden on a Monday morning, you'll hear the sound of music.

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"It is such a benefit to your loved one and you will be amazed at how it fills your heart," Wendy Fasen said about her heart-filled emotions, especially because her sister Jill has Alzheimer's. 

Fasen said it's hard to watch someone you love change as the disease progresses, but ever since she found out about the effects music has on the brain, she looks forward to singing with her sister every week.

"It's something so much fun that we can do together and it gives Jill so much enjoyment," Fasen said. "When we leave here, she says, 'Oh, that was the best. That was so much fun.'"

Scott Kinkead, the musical director for Musical Minds Choir in West Orange County, explained how it works.

"They connect it with something in their past -- something that they might have learned as a child, 5, 6 7 years old -- then boom, they can remember exactly where they were, what they were doing," Kinkead said.

The program was created by Central Florida Community Arts, a nonprofit arts organization. 

Nita Dacis, a volunteer for CFCArts, said the activity is similar to what elderly residents have in assisted living.

"People that are at home with onset dementia or Alzheimer's, they have nowhere to really go out to, or to do something enjoyable that's very relaxing. It stimulates the memory," Dacis said,

Kinkead said there's science behind it, too.

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"There a lot of studies out there that have proven that your musical memories are one of the last memories that will go in your memory loss," Kinkead said. 

The Alzheimer's Association estimates 5.5 million people over the age of 65 are living with the disease in the United States.

But in this small way, with songs from the 1920s to the 1960s, Musical Minds Choir is making a difference.

"We do a lot of laughing, we have fun. It's very important, I think, to get them involved through dancing," Kinkead said about his approach. 

Fasen said it's been a great experience for her sister.

"Anything that we can do to give her enjoyment is such a blessing because those are very limited at this point," Fasen said.

The Musical Minds Choir sessions are offered at no cost. Each person is accompanied by a family member or caretaker -- an experience for both to enjoy. The caretaker can either sit back and relax while listening to the music or chime in and sing along.

Sessions in Winter Garden are offered every Monday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on 127 S. Boyd St. 

For more information, email musicalminds@cfcarts.com or call 407-937-1800 ext. 703.


About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.