Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

This choir in Chicago helps people with memory loss connect

The Good Memories Choir in Chicago is unlike any other singing group — you don't even need to be able to carry a tune to join.

The choir was formed as a way for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and their caregivers to have a place to gather, an outlet for them to sing and have fun. Their first rehearsal was in September, and since then, about 40 members have joined the group. Volunteers also participate, stepping in to help when a singer loses their place or needs assistance hitting the correct note. Earlier this month, the Good Memories Choir held its inaugural concert, belting out songs like "What a Wonderful World" and "Que Sera Sera."

Wanting to study how singing affects people with memory loss and their families, research professor Mary Mittelman started the Unforgettables Chorus in 2011. She quickly discovered that members with early to mid-stage dementia were able to better communicate with their caregivers, felt an increase in self-esteem, forged deeper social connections, and experienced an improved overall quality of life, The Washington Post reports. Additional research shows that more regions of the brain are used when making musical memories, and some of those regions are not as affected by Alzheimer's and dementia.

In 2018, at least 10 choirs for people with memory loss and their families were launched in the United States, the Giving Voice Initiative says, and they are making a difference. "Whether or not people remember things, and whether or not they are cognitively present, we know they can feel joy," Good Memories Choir co-founder and conductor Jonathan Miller told the Post.