Singing familiar songs may encourage conversation among people with Alzheimer’s disease, a small study shows.  

Six people with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s participated in group music therapy sessions twice a week for one month. The participants were between the ages of 65 and 83. Four were born in Israel; two immigrated to Israel in their early teens.

Results showed that familiar songs elicited memories and drew spontaneous responses and extensive conversation, without the researchers’ encouragement. Participants also expressed positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment and belonging after group singing sessions.

These findings are significant because those with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s fail to produce spontaneous speech and often have low self-esteem, lead author and music therapist Ayelet Dassa, Ph.D., of Bar Ilan University, told Reuters Health

However, Dassa cautioned that songs also may trigger unhappy memories. Additionally, for those without a musical background, reading aloud can serve as a good substitute to singing, she advised. 

The study was published in the Journal of Music Therapy