She made the band move their arms like trees swaying, relaxing their shoulders, “throwing” voices and singing “Make New Friends” to relax at Musical Memory Makers choir rehearsals.
Stai encouraged the singers to recall a song from their past and talk about it. One woman recalled singing “Jesus loves me” at the baptism.
“This music brings back that memory,” Stai told the choir. “That’s what music does.”
Music also brings people together, ”Stay said during a break while the choir members talked and drank coffee.
Musical Memory Makers is one of the few art programs to help Central Minnesota residents cope with memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
St. Benedict’s College and St. John’s University recently hosted Theater Re, a British company, with a performance depicting the early stages of dementia. On November 8, the group met with community members and students to discuss the “Nature of Oblivion.”
The Paramount Center for the Arts will continue its Paramount Art Sparks program for people with memory loss with a new source of funding. Participants study works of art and then make art together with their tutors.
“It’s about connecting head, hand and heart,” said Solveig Anderson, chief information officer for communities.
Further research is still needed on the benefits of art for those with memory loss, but there is evidence in favor, according to a report from the National Arts Foundation in February 2013.
“Participation in art activities has been associated with improved cognitive function and memory, overall self-esteem and well-being, as well as reducing stress and other common symptoms of dementia such as aggression, agitation and apathy,” the report said. “Some activities promote social interaction that has many psychosocial benefits.”
Musical Memory Makers was launched in the spring with grant funding, said Laura Hood, director of aging at St. Louis. Cloud. It ended with a concert in May.
The program returns this fall and is this time funded by donors.
Music is stored in that part of the brain that is deteriorating one of the last, Hood said. “It’s a cliché, but they say music is a universal language.”
Community participation is important for people with dementia or cognitive impairment, she said. And no one stands out in the choir.
“It’s a great fit for using choir as a tool to build community and share community and community expression,” Hood said.
Choir members say they’re in it because it’s fun.
“I’m really old and I’m trying to be young,” said LaVon Rego, 87. “It keeps me young.”
Jill Ness participates in the choir and also plays in the St. Cloud Municipal Orchestra. In the group, she saw the patients of nursing homes cheer up to military tunes.
“Music makes them alive,” Nessa said.
The number of people with memory loss will increase as the population ages.
About 100,000 Minnesota residents have Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia. Dementia in itself is not a disease. It is a set of symptoms characterized by memory loss and impaired cognitive abilities.
To understand what this feeling is, Theater Re collaborated with a neurologist to accurately depict memory and amnesia on stage in the play “The Nature of Oblivion”.
“This is a program that encourages us to show more compassion, and it also invites us to understand,” said Tanya Hertz, executive director of fine arts at St. Benedict’s and St. John’s Cathedrals.
“It’s a great theater,” Hertz said. “Everyone is talking about how life-affirming it is.”
Art can be awesome in a “transactional way,” Hertz said. In addition, some experiences open up a new understanding of oneself and oneself in the world.
Anderson participated in Art Sparks as a participant, teacher and information director of Paramount.
It has existed since 2016 and was updated this year with funding from the Minnesota Arts Council.
In each class, the teacher encourages participants to talk about the artwork in a group before working on individual art projects, Anderson said. They sewed spectacle cases, made ceramics and mosaics from seeds, worked with watercolors and much more.
“Many say,‘ I’m not an artist. I can’t do that, “Anderson said. They eventually come.
“It depends on who you were and where you were,” she said. “It’s time to learn and experiment.”
Anderson said she was involved with her parents who stayed to sleep later in the day at Art Sparks because it was such a stimulating experience.
Susan Smith signed up for one of the first Art Sparks sessions with her second man, Larry Adi, who was diagnosed with dementia with Levy’s body.
At first he felt kind of shy, Smith said. But the volunteers helped him and loved him.
Now art helps them communicate when Larry’s voice or thoughts aren’t clear, Smith said.
None of them were very artistic, she said. They played sports. And both are former psychologists.
Smith took up pottery and activities at Paramount, then co-starred with Larry at Art Sparks. Since then Larry has joined the musical memory markers.
He had a period when he wasn’t very active and sang little, but now he walks the dog, Smith said. “Especially since Larry took classes, especially the choir of memory, he sings again.”