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Calgary dementia patients take a trip down memory lane through music

WATCH: It's a pilot program designed to rekindle memories that seemed to be forgotten. Music therapy sessions are helping restore the relationships between those living with dementia with their caregivers. Jill Croteau reports.

A unique pilot program connecting dementia patients and their caregivers with music is making a big difference.

The Youth Singers of Calgary program “Memory Lane” sees a music therapist guide patients through weekly singing sessions.

“Music connects us to some of our most precious memories,” said Youth Singers of Calgary CEO Shirley Penner.

“We hope the therapeutic qualities of this program will help those with dementia walk down memory lane and sing the song within their hearts.”

From the perspective of the caregivers, the program provides a sense of purpose and happiness to those living with degenerative memory loss. Bruce Hossack has been coming to the sessions with his wife, Helen Tavares, who lives with dementia.

“I think it’s good we come together,” Tavares said.

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“Helen was a beautiful singer, she had a wonderful voice but she’s lost some of that,” Hossack said.

Family members and caregivers say they’re grateful for the opportunity to bond with their loved ones.

“Oh I enjoy the old-time music,” Hossack said. “Helen and I were ballroom dancers so some of the songs we danced to them.”

JB Music Therapy joins the participants to support them in the health benefits of singing.

Music therapist Laurie Perez said it’s a rewarding part of her job to witness these families experience singing together.

“It’s a universal language we can connect with each other,” Perez said.

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“It’s something they look forward to. Their mood may have been different in the morning and they come and leave happy and it’s the music working.”

The sessions also help caregivers support each other in some of those hard times caring for an ageing parent or partner.

Memory Lane runs every Wednesday afternoon at the Performing Arts Youth Centre.