Music Can Help Memory in Dementia Patients

Music is powerful, no matter your age; most people have experienced the sensation of hearing a familiar tune and being transported back in time to when they first heard the song. Past studies have shown that music can have a similar effect on elderly individuals afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but the reasons behind this effect have been less clear.

However, a recent study found that dementia patients who participated with particular songs experienced greater benefit than those who just listened to music. Through this use of music therapy, even those patients in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s could recall emotions and memories and experience clearer mental performance after singing along with familiar music. Researchers believe that musical activity can help the memory and cognitive function of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients for several key reasons.

Music awakens emotions, which in turn kindles memories.

Music retains its ability to conjure an emotional connection, even for those patients who are in the most advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. In turn, emotion often has the power to kindle memories. As the neurologist Oliver Sacks noted, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can…bring back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” Researchers have found that combining music with routine daily activities can help boost a dementia patient’s cognitive ability. The music appears to help these patients create a rhythm that allows them to recall memories of their daily activities.

The systematic memories of musical ability and understanding are some of the last to fade in dementia patients.

While conscious memories can fade quickly in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, systematic memories and abilities are more resilient. As head researcher Linda Maguire found, musical ability and the appreciation for music are some of the most enduring abilities in Alzheimer’s patients. In this way, music helps form a bridge to connect to dementia patients and help improve cognitive abilities.

Actively engaging in music stimulates many parts of the brain.

Researchers noted during their study that the participants used much more of their brains than just the areas directly related to singing. The actual activity of singing engaged the left side of patients’ brains, while hearing the music activated the right side and seeing the rest of the class performing cued up the visual portions of the brain. This overall stimulation of participants’ brains meant that these dementia patients were being encouraged to use more of their mind than normal, laying a pathway for improved memory.

While the exact way that music helps boost memory in dementia patients may not be completely clear, caregivers should feel encouraged by these findings. Using music to help your own loved one improve their memory is as easy as putting on their favorite tunes and encouraging them to sing along.

At the Cypress of Charlotte, we offer a vibrant senior living community for active and independent retirees with resources for assisted living, skilled nursing and dementia care as any need arises. Contact us today to learn more about our senior living programs in Charlotte or to schedule a visit.

Gardening Tips and Tricks for Older Gardeners

The physical and mental health benefits of gardening are well known and documented, but as you grow older, the activity can present particular challenges.

Digging, watering, weeding and moving heavy pots may become increasingly difficult, but even if your physical strength is not quite what it was, there are still many ways for you to create, maintain and enjoy a beautiful garden.

Choose Low Maintenance Plants As The Foundation Of Your Garden
First, choose plants which require a minimum amount of attention and maintenance. Perennials, that are to say those which will survive the winter and bloom again in spring, are a particularly good option. Perennials include a wide variety of attractive flowers, including Forget Me Nots, Hibiscus, Agapanthus, Peonies and Portulacas.  

These kinds of plants will tolerate most climate conditions and soil types and require little care. As well as flowers, you can select a variety of hardy evergreens and herbs, such as rosemary, sage or thyme to provide scent, color and interest during the cold months of the year.

If you’re interested in growing vegetables, choose low-maintenance varieties such as onions, carrots, beans and leafy greens like spinach.

To keep the need for weeding and watering to a minimum, use mulches. These can consist of compost, leaves, wood chips, straw or even cardboard or brown paper. They are readily available commercially, but also easy to source from your own garden. 

Most perennials can be grown very successfully in hanging baskets, raised beds and planters, minimizing the stress on your back and knees. But if you really do need to go to ground, appropriate mobile seating or supportive kneepads can easily be obtained at a modest cost.

Consider An Artificial Lawn
If you’ve always taken pride in your well-tended and perfectly manicured lawn, the idea of artificial grass may be unattractive, but modern products are far superior to the “plastic” grass of old, and much more realistic. They require far less maintenance, are pet-friendly and can provide a very attractive backdrop to your flowers and other plants.

Invest In New Tools And Equipment
Common gardening tools such as shovels, forks and rakes have changed little in their essentials for centuries. But modern materials and design have made available many significantly lighter options, without sacrificing the necessary strength and fitness for purpose.

Well thought out sprinkler and irrigation systems can eliminate much of the physical demands of dragging a hose, although much lighter hoses are also now available.

A pair of good quality gardening gloves is also an excellent investment to help avoid cuts and possible infection. 

Above all – Enjoy!
Gardening can be a great source of year round enjoyment and delight but also a physical burden if not properly managed. So, plan your garden carefully and don’t take on more tasks than you can comfortably achieve. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family, friends and neighbors may be more than willing – if only they’re asked, and it can then become an enjoyable group experience.

Additional Information
There are numerous books and websites that cater to the specific needs of the older gardener. However, our favorite resources for information on this topic are live events where you can talk face-to-face with an expert and have all of your questions answered in one place, like the Southern Garden Show. This exhibit, held annually in Charlotte, North Carolina, which features gardeners from around the country, is an excellent source of information from professionals.

At the Cypress of Charlotte, we aim to help all our residents enjoy a happy, independent and healthy lifestyle throughout the year. For more information about our approach to retirement living at our luxurious community in Charlotte, please contact us

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