What if all it took to stave off dementia was to make sure you keep singing along with your favorite songs?
Believe it or not, that's actually true.
By "turning music into medicine," the folks at SingFit have taken the idea to the next level with a full program—designed for senior living facilities—that keeps seniors singing and moving, and has actually shown to help brain health in those suffering from dementia.
Designed in part by a music therapist, SingFit builds on the fact that even when dementia patients can't speak, they can often still sing. Singing activates the entire brain, as compared to speaking, which only uses the left hemisphere. By engaging both sides of the brain, the speech hemisphere often gets a bit of a jump start.
Because of that, SingFit won this year's CES Health Innovation Award in the Everyday Health category.
According to the company, singing and remembering lyrics are often the last thing a patient loses.
The SingFit system trains senior living staff to work through its programs, which utilize songs from all decades of popular music. It also allows, through an iOS app, control of the volume of the singer on the track and prompts listeners with a lyric just before it comes up in the melody.
By changing the volume of the guide lyrics and guide singer, the user can control how much help they need in remembering the songs. The new app, which launches this year, also allows users to record their own voices in place of the original singer and then share their version on social media.
Besides singing, the SingFit program includes trivia and movement instructions like "shake shoulders back and forth while swaying upper body left to right," designed to get the blood flowing.
According to SingFit, an eight-week pilot program showed improvement among patients, including some who did not participate or speak when the program began but were more engaged by program's end.
Presently, the SingFit program is designed primarily for senior living facilities, but the company says they are working on a home version. Company reps also noted that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords credits her recovery in part to a similar singing and speech therapy program, suggesting that SingFit could be of use beyond its current application in dementia treatment.