As an animateur and singer with over ten years experience of working with many different types of singing groups, including the homeless, special needs children, special needs adults, school children and community groups to name but a few, I have become increasingly interested in working with more specific groups concerning mental health. In particular, Parkinson’s has sparked my interest because not only are there social benefits – a sense of well-being, communication, community, organization, enjoyment, increased confidence – but perhaps more importantly there are benefits from a medical perspective. Key of these include:
- Dopamine – Parkinson’s patients suffer from a lack of dopamine. This chemical is released when listening to music
- The voice box – this gets weaker as Parkinson’s progresses, but can be strengthened through the act of singing
- Rhythm – the rhythmical nature of singing can actually help regulate the pace of walking and the length of stride. (Bower et al., 1999; Howe et al., 2003; Elston et al., 2010)
Because of these benefits (which I’m finding are being added to virtually every day as I delve ever deeper with my research) I feel that singing should be available to all Parkinson’s patients.