The Voices in Motion choir is led by Erica Phare-Bergh on Sunday. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

The Voices in Motion choir is led by Erica Phare-Bergh on Sunday. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

Saanich choir Christmas concert gives a voice to dementia sufferers

The benefits of singing together are numerous

A local choir put on a winter concert on Sunday afternoon to help de-stigmatize dementia and improve the health of participants with Alzheimer’s or dementia and the people who care for them through song.

READ MORE: New choir strikes a chord for people with dementia

Voices in Motion is a choir for adults with memory loss, their caregivers, friends, and students. The choir began in September 2017 as a research project undertaken by the nursing, psychology, sociology and music departments at the University of Victoria to study how participating in a choir can help those with dementia and the people who care for them.

Voices in Motion choir director Erica Phare-Bergh said leading the choir has been the most amazing gift. “I did not expect this to be such an incredible journey. I’m moved by the courage of people as they face this journey,” Phare-Bergh said.

Phare-Bergh said the researchers at UVic have found that stigma has gone down, depression has gone down, cortisol levels have been going up in people because they’ve been singing, and caregiver stress has gone down. “It’s not that it lessened their situation, but it helped them reframe what is happening and gives them an option to do something that’s really meaningful,” she said.

Phare-Bergh said she demands a lot of her choir. “One of the most fun things to do is to see that there is actually a shift as a group in the technical aspects of singing too because that means that there’s growth as well. It’s not like somebody is always making the same mistake every time – they don’t.”

Wendy Casey (middle) travels to Saanich from Mill Bay with her mother every week to participate in the Voices in Motion choir. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

Choir member, and caregiver for her mother who has dementia, Wendy Casey said she has seen these benefits for her mother first-hand. She said her mom has no short-term memory because of the disease, but she has been making some new memories with the choir, something Casey said isn’t supposed to happen for people with dementia.

Casey said her mother has been able to recognize Phare-Bergh and remember the words to songs she learned in the choir even though she can’t remember Casey’s cousin who she has known for years. “I would say that it’s the singing that’s doing it because she doesn’t recognize other people,” Casey said.

“The frontal lobe is what’s normally affected in Alzheimer’s and that’s the part that so much of our life and our memories draw on,” said Phare-Bergh. “But when you sing together as a choir what they’ve noticed in the research they did at UVic is that it draws on all the other parts of the brain and that kind of comes to the rescue of the frontal lobe.”

“I wish we were doing more testing because my mom is a kick-ass scrabble player,” Casey said. “She’s slowly losing it, but I’d really like to have seen her scrabble game before and at the end of this.”

Phare-Bergh said there will be more research conducted with the choir, starting in January 2020.

READ MORE: Choir study shows people with dementia can learn new songs

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow @yrlocaljourno

MusicSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Organizers say some 100 vehicles rallied against plans by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property in Metchosin. (Barb Sawatsky/Submitted)
Proposed subdivision of green space in Metchosin draws 100 vehicles in protest

Plans for land owned by Boys Girls Club of Greater Victoria affects entire region, say residents

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich mayor, councillor call for new solutions to mental health emergencies

Shifting response from police to trained mental health team the best option, mayor says

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights decorations are still up as of March 1, 2021. (Cole Schisler photo)
PHOTOS: It’s still looking a lot like Christmas in Ladysmith

Festival of Lights volunteers cannot remove the holiday roof top displays due to COVID-19

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Agassiz boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read