Singalong the right prescription for patients

THERAPEUTIC SINGALONG: Parkinsons sufferer Iris Matheson is finding the CeleBRation Choir is helping her to walk more confidently.
THERAPEUTIC SINGALONG: Parkinsons sufferer Iris Matheson is finding the CeleBRation Choir is helping her to walk more confidently.

The CeleBRation Choir is not your average choir.

Set up in September by Auckland University's Centre for Brain Research, it uses music as therapy to help people with neurological conditions such as huntington's or motor neurone disease.

The weekly sessions at the Tamaki Campus in Glen Innes provide an opportunity for patients and their caregivers to get together and enjoy a sing-along.

Music therapist Alison Cooper says it is the first choir of its type in New Zealand.

"We were very inspired by the Sing for Joy choir in London. I heard them sing when I was in London in May."

She says there is growing evidence that music is beneficial to people's health.

"Music uses many parts of the brain so even if one part of the brain is
damaged through an accident or disease, it seems the brain can use other pathways."

When people start to sing songs they've known for a long time, it also triggers their memory and speech, she says.

St Heliers resident Iris Matheson was diagnosed with parkinsons disease two years ago.

She still works part-time supporting the elderly in their homes, but sometimes has difficulty walking.

Joining the choir has helped her in more ways than one.

"I feel I can walk more confidently than I did before," she says.

"The breathing exercises seem to strengthen your core muscles - when you do them repetitively and everyday. It's strengthening."

An avid singer, she says working the vocal chords seems to "oxygenate your blood" and makes you feel better.

"It's something a bit different. We all get stuck in a rut and it's good to do something different."

The caregiver of another choir member, who suffers primary progressive aphasia, has found he is talking more, both in session and at home.

"It's very positive," Ms Cooper says. "People are coming back every week so that suggests they're enjoying it. It's a social thing as much as the actual music side."

The choir will run each week until Christmas, alternating between Monday afternoons and Thursday evenings. The centre hopes to secure more funding to continue the programme next year.

Spaces are still available for new members.

For more information call Laura Fogg on 923-1913.

East And Bays Courier