Thanks to healthier living and medical advancements, people are living longer lives, but an estimated 10% of people over the age of 65 still develop Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia that can cause difficulty thinking, increased irritability and even death as one gets older. While regular exercise, social engagement, a healthy diet, sleep and decreased stress can help prevent Alzheimer’s, apparently so can singing Broadway musicals and show tunes, according to a study recently shared with the Society for Neuroscience.
A surprising study about singing Broadway musicals
In the study, researchers examined the mental performance of two groups of patients in an elderly care facility on the East Coast of the United States. One group of patients participated in a 50-minute group singing session that occurred three times per week for four months. During the sessions, they sang well-known songs from musicals like The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio. The other group just listened to the singing sessions but didn’t actually sing.
After four months, researchers gave patients in both groups cognitive tests, drawing tests and a satisfaction-with-life questionnaire. Those in the singing group fared better in all cases, whether they had moderate or severe Alzheimer’s.
“A lot of people have grown up singing songs and for a long time the memories are still there,” says Jane Flinn, a neuroscientist at George Mason University in Virginia. “When they start singing it can revive those memories.”
How singing Broadway musicals can help aging LGBTQ seniors prevent Alzheimer’s
While this isn’t particularly surprising considering that other studies have shown that singing music positively impacts older people’s mood, orientation, memory and (to a smaller degree) attention and cognitive skills, but it’s especially encouraging considering the aging LGBTQ community’s stereotypical love of Broadway musicals.
Many gay bars have show tune sing-along nights, and it’s common for gay people to have a favorite song from a stage or film musical. By 2034, there will be over 6 million LGBTQ people over the age of 55 — a phenomenon known as “the Silver Tsunami” — which means that approximately 600,000 of them will have Alzheimer’s by 2044.
If elderly care facilities and other places frequented by older LGBTQ people can encourage their silver-haired patrons to keep singing, they can help keep them happier and their brains healthier as they age. In fact, sing-alongs do such a good job staving off dementia that the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society even holds regular group singing sessions nationwide.
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