By Robert Preidt
The study included 89 people with mild to moderate dementia. For 10 weeks, they were either coached in singing, listened to familiar songs, or received standard care from their caregivers.
Those in the singing group showed improvements in memory, thinking skills and the ability to find their way around. This was especially true for those younger than 80 with mild dementia, the study found.
Listening to music provided these benefits only to those with more advanced dementia, the study authors said.
Whether a person had sung or played a musical instrument earlier in life did not influence the benefits of the music therapy, according to the study published Dec. 10 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
"Given the increasing global prevalence and burden of dementia and the limited resources in public health care for persons with dementia and their family caregivers, it is important to find alternative ways to maintain and stimulate cognitive, emotional, and social well-being in this population," said study leader Teppo Sarkamo, of the University of Helsinki.
"Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation," Sarkamo said in a journal news release. "Especially stimulating and engaging activities, such as singing, seem to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia."