Choirs

Sing Here Now Vancouver’s only choir for people with Alzheimer’s disease and early stage dementia

Towards the end of training, Les, 79, and Julie Burger, 80, got up and started dancing.

The little choir sat around, singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. After a bit of curiosity, Julie Burger managed to convince her husband to give up singing for a short dance on Thursday, as the Sing Here Now choir gathered for its weekly rehearsal at Vancouver’s Mannahouse Church.

Sing Here Now is Vancouver’s only choir for people with Alzheimer’s disease and early stage dementia. It is managed by the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter. The choir held its first session this summer. It has regrouped for a winter session that will run until mid-March, and it could culminate in a small concert if the choir can get enough participants.

Research shows that listening to or singing music can provide “emotional and behavioral benefits” for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic. Music can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation in those affected by these disorders. It can also bring back happy memories, which is part of why Sing Here Now gets together before lunchtime, said Joey Yourchek, who co-leads the choir.

“We chose this time of day because people bring their loved ones here, and they’ll sing for an hour and a half, and then they can go out to lunch and have a conversation,” Yourchek said. .

Les Burger said his wife of 59 years has always been very musical and loved to sing or play instruments. A Colombian story about the couple from 2017 explained how Les Burger would always sing “You Are My Sunshine” to Julie after answering her calls. It was a way for her to quickly recognize who was calling, as she didn’t always remember the names, but she could remember the lyrics of the songs.

The Burgers first joined an Alzheimer’s choir in Portland, also through the Alzheimer’s Association, and they said they were happy that a choir had been formed in Vancouver. Les Burger said his wife enjoyed the songs.

“If you start singing a song from the 60s, Julie will know all the words,” he said.

Beth Anderson, who conducts the choir with Yourchek, said that “music defies dementia” because music reaches memories with such success. The affection shown when the Burgers danced is also a component of the choir. Anderson and Yourchek believe the choir can be a stimulating social activity. There is a brief intermission at each rehearsal, where the choir can chat with each other. Jokes are also frequently circulated during workouts.

Just before the choir sang “Fly Me to the Moon,” a man joked, “Fly me to the moon, but I can’t go. I have dishes to do at home.

Learn more

If you would like to learn more about Sing Here Now, call 800-272-3900 or email Claire-Marie Wisner at [email protected]

Anderson says the choir became a community in no time.

“We would like people to realize that just because they’re labeled dementia doesn’t mean they can’t go out and do things and have fun,” Anderson said.

Claire-Marie Wisner, program specialist at Alzheimer’s Association Oregon & Southwest Washington, said leaving home and interacting with others is important for the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She was inspired by Sing Here Now.

“They live a life after a diagnosis,” Wisner said, “and a lot of people think there is no life after that.”

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